As a homeowner, I take my 1 Gbps internet service for granted. I love having a fast connection, particularly because have so many connected devices. But I’ve gotten so used to it that I don’t have the perspective of others who might live in an apartment that has much slower wireless networking speeds. And if I had to manage my smart home devices on that connection? Let’s just say I might not want to if the rental complex provided broadband to everyone. This might explain why Eero is moving into the MDU, or multiple-dwelling unit, market for its Wi-Fi products.
The company today announced a new program called Eero for Communities, aimed squarely at helping managed properties maintain and delivery Wi-Fi for its customers.
Eero for Communities works with both the company’s traditional routers as well as its new Power-over-Ethernet devices. The idea here is to give MDUs an all-in-one network infrastructure and management solution though Eero-trusted internet service providers (ISPs). Using both the Eero mobile app and Eero Insight, property owners can easily track network usage, outages and other key metrics.
To get a sense of how big the MDU market is, Parks Associates research reveals that 34% of US broadband households are MDU residents. After reading that it’s roughly one in three, I suppose that makes sense. Again, it’s not something I ever thought about before. And of that audience, Parks Associates reports that 43% of those MDU residents have smart home devices.
That actually doesn’t surprise me. More than half of all U.S. households are estimated to have a smart speaker and once you have that, adding some bulbs or security cameras is a frequent step. Where does the Wi-Fi for those devices come from in the rental units? Nearly 9 out of 10 renters have it provided by the rental property itself, an approach called “bulk broadband”.
From a smart home point of view, as long as the property’s Wi-Fi service offers a unique SSID, or network name, for each apartment, you can at least manage your devices semi-privately. If the complex doesn’t offer unique networks for each resident, I’m not sure I’d set up any smart cameras, lights or locks. I wouldn’t want any other residents to see, or try to connect to, my devices. And I sure as heck don’t want to see theirs when trying to manage my devices.
Eero for Communities does support such individual networks, which is a smart move. By bringing some level of privacy to a renter’s network, there’s more opportunity to sell connected devices. Given that Amazon owns Eero, you can imagine the strategy here.
Here’s how Eero describes the new offering, which sounds little different from my single-family home networking experience:
Allow residents to customize their private wifi network within minutes of moving in, eliminating the hassle of scheduling technician appointments or purchasing and setting up equipment. Residents can easily set their wifi network name and password, create profiles to protect kids from inappropriate content, block ads, and fully manage their network using the
simple and powerful eero app.
Still, even with my “own” network, I’d be cautious. Since the property manages the entire network, it could have access or insights into any devices I create on my little slice of Wi-Fi. I’d also ask to see the terms of service and privacy practices of the property as it pertains to my wireless data. Does it have the right to sell that data, and if so, to whom?
Granted, even as a homeowner today, I face the same challenge with my internet service provider. And I’m 99% certain it’s selling my data. Even with ad blockers and browsing with incognito mode, some product searches seem to magically generate targeted ads on our other devices within minutes.
Eero for Communities has another potential benefit for MDU owners: The ability to have a “property wide IoT network for property-owned IoT devices like thermostats, sensors, and door locks.” That option can provide value to the owner by touting helpful, smart device services to perspective renters. If I had an electric vehicle, for example, I’d love to see a camera view of any charging stations on the property. Why bother going to the car if the stations are in use?
Will Eero for Communities bring a massive uplift in hardware and service sales to Amazon? I suspect not, given that this isn’t the first time such a package is being offered. In fact, the ISPs have already been offering such bulk broadband options to MDU owners. But I’d take Eero’s equipment over the very generic routers from an ISP any day, whether I lived in an apartment or a single home. So even a small piece of the large bulk broadband pie may be good enough for Eero.