DIY vs. DIFM in the Smart Home

04 November 2019

There are two schools of thought on the installation of smart home products: DIY and DIFM.

Do It Yourself (DIY) is a lot about cost savings. I can buy a smart speaker or a Nest thermostat and install it myself, at a time that’s convenient for me, without paying extra for it.

Do It For Me (DIFM) is what was previously known as ‘professional installation’: I will contract someone not only to install my smart home products but possibly also to recommend which products to buy, design how they would be installed in my home, and potentially monitor and support these products after the installation.

A key driver for DIY installation is cost savings. For instance, below are the reasons for self-installing a security system according to a Q3 ’18 report by Parks Associates.

Not all devices are created the same. Many people are capable of self-installing an Amazon Echo smart speaker. A lot fewer are capable of (or interested in) self-installing a water monitoring system that requires cutting the main water supply line.

Integration with other systems is also a consideration. It’s one thing to install a smart lock. It’s another to configure a security system panel to work with it. There are competing and overlapping smart-home ecosystems (Alexa, Works with Google, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings) and as the number of devices at home increases, making sure that everything works together is increasingly important.

There is also an increasing number of “split decisions”. For instance, a person might opt to self-install networked security cameras but still wants professional monitoring of them.

Device manufacturers understand that DIY installs expand their addressable market (as opposed to just DIFM installs), but DIY installs carry an increased risk of returns. A professional installer might return a device if it does not work, but individuals performing a DIY install might return the product just because they were unable to follow the installation instructions.

Two key areas that impact the ease of installation are network connectivity and power.

Smart home devices need to connect to the home network. Connectivity issues could range from weak WiFi signals in the area of installation, lost network password, insufficient bandwidth or the need to install a Zigbee to WiFi bridge. All of these can complicate installations. To address these issues, vendors try to offer installation wizards in a mobile app, WPS (WiFi protected setup) installation and more

Smart home devices also need power and can receive power from a power outlet, from batteries or both. DIY installers need to consider whether they want to route cables (sometimes through walls), accept fewer features when the device runs on battery and consider the effort of replacing or recharging batteries. Sometimes, these considerations drive DIY installations to become DIFM installs.

Long-range wireless power can help. Instead of wires or batteries, devices can receive power over the air. Wireless power not only helps DIY installations but also shortens and simplifies DIFM installs. Beyond the installation, wireless power can eliminate the need to replace or recharge batteries, hence enhancing the post-install experience.

But for wireless power to be effective in these scenarios, several key conditions need to be met:

  1. The ability to deliver sufficient power to the device.
  2. Simple installation of the wireless power system, avoiding structural changes required to the home.
  3. Low power consumption.
  4. Zero or very simple configuration.
  5. A system that is certified to be safe for consumers.

We believe that long-range wireless power not only simplifies both DIY and DIFM installs but also helps expand the market to those that were originally concerned with the cable and power management issues of traditional installs.

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