Axius aims to wire smart homes from the ground up

Anyone can plug in an Amazon Alexa device or pop in an August smart lock to create a smarter home, but one San Francisco-based startup is thinking bigger than just devices. Axius, founded by serial entrepreneur Colin Barceloux, is aiming to wire smart homes for IoT and smart devices from the very start of construction. The company is working with developers and property managers to intelligently and efficiently wire homes.

The critical piece of hardware involved is called the Axius Hub, a central networking core that can not only manage and protect a home’s smart devices, but also monitor remotely to pre-emptively provide troubleshooting support in the event of an Internet crash, security penetration, or other challenges.

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“Axius is actually a service,” explained Barceloux during an interview with Digital Trends. “We provide smart home device management and cyber security for homeowners with smart homes. What that essentially means is that we make sure all their Internet-connected devices are safe, secure and functioning. We can do that through the Axius Hub, which connects to the homeowner’s router. Once it’s connected, it’s super easy to plug and play—it lights up our software, which scans the network and recognizes all the devices and then constantly runs to make sure these devices aren’t getting hacked, to make sure they’re online, and to make sure they’re updated.”

Axius offers a straightforward pricing system, offering the Hub for $99 and comprehensive monitoring services for $24.95 per month, which includes a dedicated account support representative, monthly reports on device usage, daily management of devices and security, and customized tech “coaching.”

“With all these new devices, it presents all kinds of new challenges to homeowners, from making sure everything works to making sure they’re not getting hacked,” Barceloux said. “The average smart home owner is going to want a service to manage these functions. Just like someone might have a pool service or a landscaper, they’re going to need IT support for all these new services as well. That’s where Axius comes in.”

Responding to homeowners who are just starting to deploy smart devices has been the company’s primary market, but now Axius is actively working with developers and home builders to pre-install the Axius hub in smart homes.

“The smart home represents an enormous opportunity for home builders because honestly, home construction hasn’t changed much in 100 years,” Barceloux explained. “We’re particularly seeing a big interest in first-time homeowners. As millennials and younger generations get to the age of buying a home, they’re going to want a smart home because they’re used to all these mainstream brands like Sonos and Nest. They don’t want old-school, non-connected devices. If they’re going to pay for a new home, they want to make sure these smart devices are already installed.”

The home builders are interested because the smart-home movement potentially exposes their products to a brand-new market of first-time home buyers, but Barceloux admits there’s a learning curve for these developers.

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“If you ask them to put in a marble countertop, they can do that with their eyes closed,” he said. “But if you start talking about putting in a smart Bluetooth lock, a smart garage door opener and Wi-Fi-connected sprinkler controls, they have no clue. So we partner with them to make a plan; their electricians still install everything, but they partner with Axius to ensure that everything is set up properly, that the technology gets updated, and that the homeowners are trained on it. By partnering with us, it ensures these new homeowners have a successful buying experience with the smart homes that developers are selling.”

Axius is currently piloting programs with builders, developers and property managers in urban markets like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington DC, providing smart home management to more than 500 units so far. The Axius team also works hands-on with current and developing smart home devices to ensure their technical support is up to date.

“We have a smart home laboratory in our offices where we actually put hands on the devices to play with them and test them out,” Barceloux said. “It’s an area where we can install thermostats, door locks, smoke alarms and so forth. It’s important for us to get our hands on the tech ourselves, because it allows us to provide better troubleshooting.”

It’s an enormous market; according to Zion Market Research the global smart home market size was valued at nearly $24 billion in 2016 and is expected to be more than $50 billion by 2022. Given the size of the competition, Axius is working hard to distinguish themselves in this growing market.

“I don’t think anyone has taken the unique position we have, which is trying to be a concierge-like service for your smart home,” Barceloux said. “It could be about fixing an issue but it could also be about getting a recommendation or talking to Comcast on your behalf. We really want to offer an all-encompassing service where we support anything that is tech-related.”

“The second big difference is that most of the support companies are very reactive,” he continued. “The beautiful thing about the Hub is that it allows us to provide proactive service. If your Internet goes down, we’re more likely to know about it before you do. I think the future of tech support is going to move from a reactive model to a proactive one, and we want to be out in front of that movement.”