Home automation and Internet of Things are two of the most innovating and dynamic industries in the tech universe. Important trends have settled after the Nest-Google agreement and the good results achieved by many startups and innovative outsiders reshaping the market. Companies defining new horizons both in USA (Revolv, SmartThings, ThinkEco and many more) and Europe (BrightUp and other best player we’re going to interview on Startup look-up! in the next posts).
We couldn’t miss the Made in Italy contribution among the most interesting European ones. Economic stagnation and the critical situation of the country aren’t showing nothing more than a gloomy atmosphere, and the lack of leadership has been internationally commented. However several export-oriented SMEs are leading excellence and innovation. Companies that have been investing in R&D and foreign business development as well as in high-potential new marketing channels like the contract industry with turnkey projects and global counterparts.
Italian startups are growing in a fast developing environment, with new players, incubators, VC funds, institutional tools, in a good and professional effort to incentive business and innovation (check out a wide selection in our public startup Twitter list). In this evolving scenario a few good startups are emerging. Today we’ll provide a quick glance at Unixmedia, a made in Italy startup that realized Domotika its home automation system totally based on Ethernet and IP protocol (the way you’re accessing this website right now). These guys are developing they’re products focusing on the “independence from the limitations set by production goals of the big corporations” and the full compatibility with present and future devices, without any complicated implementation.
We interviewed Franco Lanza (Unixmedia R&D) who walked us through his company’s backstage:
How was your idea born? Why did you decide to develop a new technology/product for the home automation market?
Our idea popped up from a pretty personal need. Few years ago me and my team-mates were young tech geeks and IT professionals and we were about to settle in a new home trying to find out the best way to realize the automated environment we’ve been dreaming thanks to 80s/90s sci-fi movies. Quite disappointed by the solutions provided by the domotics market, in terms of high costs and technology, we decided to team up and build our own way to the smart-home.While testing the first prototypes we soon decided to set up a business and start selling our products.
What’s the added value Unixmedia and its products compared to the market, in your opinion? Why do you define yourself “an atypical startup”?
Our added value is the implementation of free and open source technologies, a strong security and privacy attention and the ethernet/IP network that has overcome the serial bus technologies. We’re an atypical startup because we’re not trying to set up a company to finally get acquired by a top player in the home automation industry. We’re trying to develop a new real product with self secured financing channels. And, however, because we’re not so young!
How are you approaching the market in terms of positioning, goals, target customer? Are you planning any foreign business development strategy (considered a must by many startups as well as established companies)?
Unixmedia is a manufacturing company with a strong European focus and a totally open source software. Our target is split in key profiles like the tech geeks, system installers (HVAC, electrical devices, etc.), architects and construction companies.
We’re also working on the export development, mainly in two directions. We’re building up a classical distribution network partnering up with foreign and Italian installers well established in the market, as well as manufacturers who want to integrate their product range. Meanwhile we’re strongly connected with the open source community (mostly the prototype hardware world) so we try to approach the market of the tech geeks, that often are good professionals working in key markets.
Now the international contract market, with its turnkey construction projects (hospitality, residential, corporate and more), is a key channel in the design and home automation industry. Domotics is a good chance to set up a personalized hotel experience, like many top designers are saying (Karim Rashind, Carlo Colombo and many others). How do you see your philosophy and product in this market?
Our system features perfectly fit with the contract industry and turnkey projects. Free and open source protocols allow a strong integration potential and let you manage high levels of customization, quite hard to achieve with proprietary or closed software systems. We’re already working with designers and installers to integrate our products in several hotels, especially in the Arab markets. Our systems are being used to remotely manage almost everything: from the classical home automation, to the less ordinary features (aquarium control for example).
Tell us the best results you have achieved during your business development (and the toughest troubles you’ve faced of course!)
The best result come from the everyday use of our home automation system. We couldn’t live without it in our own homes, and that’s awesome! Customers enthusiastic feedback and the growing interest on our systems are also boosting up our motivation every day as well.
The toughest troubles didn’t come from the wide crisis of the construction market on which we mostly depend. Hard times came because of bureaucracy and the terrible credit crunch experienced here. We’ve had also to face the first-look skepticism among the installers community. But, finally, this community became one of our best supporters!
(NB the header picture displayed in home page related to this post is Stamp House by Charles Wright Architects – more on Freshome)