How Airbnb could help the smart home

This coffee maker looks kinda iffy, but it is awesome.

This week I’m traveling, which means I’m ensconced in a cozy rental unit I found using HomeAway. I generally enjoy my experiences with properties on the service, but this one has been exceptional, and one reason is the BonaVita coffee machine that makes some of the best drip coffee I’ve ever experienced. I had never encountered this brand, which apparently is well reviewed and beloved by coffee folks for being a cheaper way to get that pour-over coffee taste.

Why do I bring this up? Because I’m likely to purchase one of these machines after having the chance to live with it for a few days. Which leads me to think that short-term rental units might be one of the best sales channels that connected device companies have.

Already many rental unit owners take advantage of connected locks, thermostats and sometimes even cameras to make their lives easier. Having a code for a lock as opposed to a key is great for both renters and property owners (we already lost one of the physical keys to our rental unit). Having a lock that doesn’t require the visitor to download a specific app is probably better.

Data from an August survey.

August and Airbnb put out data this week that interviewed property owners and those who stay in short-term rentals to understand some of the ways connected devices can help alleviate concerns of both renters and property owners. Clearly, connected locks can help with worries about renters losing their keys or property owners worried about folks leaving the lights or air conditioning on after they leave.

But perhaps more fun is the idea of trying out something like the Amazon Echo in an Airbnb or HomeAway rental. It’s a device with a high curiosity factor that benefits from trying it in a home setting. It also doesn’t force someone to use it. If you want to ignore the Echo in your rental, you can. But my hunch is a lot of people would love to try it.

Other beneficiaries of such trials could be Sonos speakers, connected window coverings and connected gardening systems. I think some of the voice-activated thermostats or even the chance to see an Ecobee 3 or Nest in action could also be compelling.

Another example of a way rental owners can use connected devices would be to connect something like a connected washer and dryer to a system like Amazon’s Dash Replenishment service, which could automatically reorder things like detergent or dryer sheets.

One challenge to smart home devices used in a shared setting like a rental property is figuring out how to tie a connected device to the home as opposed to an individual’s account. It may be that each property gets an email address and an iPad so the renter can control and access various feeds. Or maybe Airbnb can team up with property owners to offer a service that manages connected devices for both the guests and the property owners.

As ideas go, it’s not a bad way to try before you buy for a series of products that costs a lot, require installation and generally require you to live with them for a while before you can really appreciate their value.

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