Summary:

Are home automation and the internet of things always related? A recent $3.8 million funding for a company called Zonoff has me pondering this question.

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Zonoff, a Malvern, Pa. company building software for the connected home, has raised $3.8 million in venture capital funding led by Valhalla Partners and Grotech Ventures. The Series A round will allow Zonoff to build its technical team and support existing customers — which it can’t yet disclose.

Zonoff was founded in 2011, when it spun out of a company called BuLogics. The core technology platform Zonoff offers has been in development for roughly 10 years, and it has 18 employees. Yet, in talking with Zonoff CEO Mike Harris, I found myself wondering where the connected home and the internet of things overlap and where they diverge.

Harris explained that the company wants to offer software to retail customers and big consumer brands that will help those companies offer a simple connected device experience for consumers. So, an automated climate control system might come with a Zonoff software supporting the app that controls a variety of devices that will make up the climate control system. He was less clear about building a true internet of things offering with the concept of a service built around open and easily shared data.

Harris, who helped found Anysource, a company that let people access web content on their TVs and was later sold to DivX, explained that consumers will likely go to a trusted brand for a connected home solution as opposed to buying a hub and doing it themselves. This runs counter to the go-to-market strategy that companies like SmartThings and Mobiplug seem to be pursuing.

Yet there are similarities. Mobiplug, for example, wants to let consumers add their existing devices to its app and control them from one place. It has a hub, but that’s not central to the consumer experience, that’s just needed to get everything connected. And SmartThings is also trying to build a platform where existing connected devices are represented online and can be controlled from an app or site. The difference is a consumer initiates and controls the experience.

So far Zonoff’s only named customer is a company called Somfy, which makes a home automation system called TaHoMa. That system uses Z-Wave and requires a customer to buy Somfy parts and controller programmed by a Somfy technicians. That’s a more expensive proposition.

I’m not sure if that will be indicative of all of Zonoff’s deployments, and certainly some consumers want someone else to take care of this for them, but it’s still seems closer to high-end home automation than the open services I’m hoping come with the internet of things.

This story was updated at 7:15 AM to correct the CEO’s name and the company’s employees. His name is Mike Harris, not Matt Harris. The company has 18 employees.

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