Jacuzzi, the iconic maker of hot tubs, is using Particle’s IoT platform to connect a thousand hot tubs today with plans to expand to all of its hot tubs in the future. A few weeks back during a discussion with Mark Allen, vice president of IT at Jacuzzi, he told me the decision to use Particle’s boards came about from a chance encounter on a plane.
“We had been thinking about doing some type of connected hot tub for quite some time,” Allen says. “Long before we knew really what IoT was, we were thinking about doing a machine to machine kind of interface. We’d been thinking about that for years. And we had approached different companies for doing something like that, and we had just never found the right company to partner with. And then our CEO had been sitting on a flight next to somebody that was one of the CEOs from Particle, and just had been talking about it with him. And that sparked [our CEO’s] interest, and that’s what began the discussion with Particle.
“And the Particle partnership was … it just was a perfect fit from day one, and when they came in to meet with us, and we started talking about what we wanted to do, and where they were at in the process, it was a perfect fit.”
Allen says Jacuzzi chose to use the cellular-capable Particle boards because it can be challenging getting connectivity in backyards using Wi-Fi. And it took some work to get the Particle boards ready for their role at Jacuzzi.
“The partnership with Particle was really taking their existing board, and customizing that,” Allen says. “Allowing Particle to do a lot of work in interfacing with our existing infrastructure that’s in the tub and then building out the Particle cloud, customizing the Particle cloud, and then building out the AWS infrastructure for Jacuzzi so that we had a really tightly integrated system from end to end.”
So far Jacuzzi has been selling connected hot tubs since April and has sold about half of the 1,000 it has built with connectivity. The rest are in the pipeline with dealers, waiting to make their way into customers’ homes.
While many companies view a connected product as a way to cut out middlemen, Jacuzzi is trying to use connectivity to enhance the relationship the customer has with its dealer network. Because hot tubs are an expensive purchase, consumers want to visit a location and try the tubs out. Jacuzzi encourages the so-called “wet tests” because each brand and model within a brand is so different and returns aren’t possible after an installation.
When asked about other reasons why Jacuzzi is keeping dealers in the loop Allen says, “Yeah, [dealers are] absolutely important for us for a couple of different reasons, ” he says. “One is, our dealer not only sells our hot tubs, but they also service hot tubs.
“So the approach to our dealers was that this benefits the dealer from being able to provide a connected hot tub and then also from a dealer perspective, we give the dealer a portal that enables them to see all of the hot tubs that they sold, their connected hot tub, the status of those hot tubs, and then also any error messages that come in. They can quickly see any hot tubs that have errors, and then they can also run remote diagnostics on those hot tubs. So from a dealer perspective, that’s a huge benefit. In the past they would get a call from a consumer saying, ‘I’ve got a problem with the hot tub.’ And they would roll a van with, you know, everything in it, kind of hoping that they had what’s needed in order to repair that hot tub. Now they run remote diagnostics and they’ve got a pretty good idea what’s wrong with that hot tub before they go out in the field.”
This tends to make customers and dealers happier. But it also helps Jacuzzi figure out what tends to go wrong in their products and enables them to see what features customers actually use. Allen hopes this helps provide useful insights for product development. For more on Allen and Jacuzzi’s experience listen to the entire interview below.