Thermostats. Locks. Leak sensors. Even a smart speaker. Wyze wants to build it all, and for as little as possible. This is Wyze's entire business philosophy: wafer-thin margins, high volume.
Two years on, it seems to be working. "I think it's scaring some other competitors," Wyze co-founder David Crosby tells The Ambient. "They've had these super thick margins for so long."
Whether or not companies like Google Nest, Arlo and Sengled are scared right now, they surely will be. Wyze has no plans to go away any time soon, having raised a cool $20 million in Series A funding earlier this year, and currently sitting pretty with the number-one selling security camera over on Amazon. Crosby also tells us they've now sold over three million cameras.
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"We don't feel like anyone in the market right now has truly solved the smart home," Crosby adds. "It's not widely adopted, and that's because if you want a smart home with cameras and sensors‚Ä¶ it costs you thousands and thousands of dollars."
Crosby says Wyze's goal is to let people do that for $100 to $200. "As we add more products in the next year or two, we think we'll be the first ones to solve that problem."
It all started with the camera. Built by four ex-Amazon engineers (Crosby being one of them) and costing $20, it was a hit. So much so that Wyze was caught short and couldn't fulfill orders. "In 2018 the swings were wild," says Crosby. "For that whole first year we were just chasing inventory the entire time and trying to make it as fast as we could. We're in a much better situation now."
Now on steadier footing, Wyze has expanded with sensors, a light bulb, and a soon-to-launch smart plug. Crosby says the company is also working on a wide range of lighting, including coloured bulbs, kitchen lighting, and a variety of fittings. "We're looking to flesh out lighting and make it a core part of the Wyze ecosystem," he adds.
We're looking to flesh out lighting
When we'll see those, however, remains to be seen, because Wyze is about to make its most radical move yet: slow down. Its software clearly needs work, and the company plans to spend the rest of 2019 focusing on its own platform. Its Alexa and Google Assistant integrations are pretty bare-bones right now too, but Crosby says the plan is to beef them up.
And yes, HomeKit is coming, but possibly not to the Wyze Cam due to stringent conditions set by Apple. "Either Apple will have to give us a waiver on some of that stuff, or maybe we do it in the future with WyzeCam V3 or something," says Crosby. He can't say definitively how it will turn out, but that will come as a disappointment to people who bought the camera on the promise of HomeKit support.
Privacy, and moving into subscriptions
Privacy and security are hot-button topics right now, and it's something Crosby and the team are thinking a lot about. At the moment the Wyze Cam uses a peer-to-peer connection in order to stream video to the mobile app, an alternative to the usual cloud method. But it uses Amazon's cloud service to upload event videos captured on the camera. "We try to touch it as little as possible on both of those things," says Crosby. "We never look at customer data, we never look in and see any of those videos."
Wyze also partnered with a Seattle AI company called Xnor.ai for its camera person detection, a feature that's usually found locked into subscription plans by rivals like Google Nest. "The algorithm runs on the camera, it doesn't communicate with the cloud," says Crosby. But this feature is a little hit-and-miss right now, and even though it's free, it will need to prove it can do it as well as the pricier giants (while still remaining free) if it's going to win over users. Wyze trains these algorithms solely on videos that are voluntary submitted by users when there's been an incorrect recording, but Crosby says the team get a surprisingly large number of these from its user community, and seems convinced that we'll see it improve rapidly.
A smart speaker is something we've been exploring
The bigger concern for Wyze right now is how it moves into subscription plans, because it will inevitably have to. Up to this point it's built its business on cheap products that do everything out of the box. "The problem we're running into now is that, because of that, there are limitations on what we can do." By that, Crosby is talking about the company's current limitation of just 12 seconds of footage, something a lot of customers have been asking it to expand on. It will happen, but you can't necessarily just copy and paste the same economics to software.
"The prices we're looking at right now ‚Äď I can't say anything in stone ‚Äď are lower than anyone else," Crosby says, but adds that the company won't roll anything out that it loses money on.
One thing we know is definitely coming this year is Wyze's first outdoor camera, something the company has been talking about for many months. "There's no secret that the outdoor cam is going to be massive for us," says Crosby. "We're super excited to see how that does. But we're looking at all sorts of different things: doorbells, locks, thermostats, more lighting, maybe leak sensors."
Even a smart speaker? "Yes absolutely, that's something we've been exploring as well."
Wyze's plan is, put simply, to take over your home. Crosby makes no bones about the company's desire to create all manner of smart home products, and it thinks people will come back to buy them, too. "Those same people [who buy a Wyze Cam] come back and buy new products as they build out ecosystems. It becomes harder to switch ecosystems once they're in." But Crosby also says Wyze won't create a total ecosystem lock-in ‚Äď not while Amazon and Google still dominate the space.
"It would be very hard to build a smart home assistant without those integrations," he says. "Unless we're going to build a voice assistant of our own. And who knows, maybe we'll do that some day."