Amazon Takes on Smart Homes; Invests in Prefab Home Builder

The Seattle-based online retailer giant Amazon announced this week that it is taking stake in Plant Prefab, a Southern California-based builder of prefabricated homes. The investment is being made through the Alexa Fund, a financial arm Amazon created in 2015 to support startups working on new uses for voice technology.

“Voice has emerged as a delightful technology in the home, and there are now more than 20,000 Alexa-compatible smart home devices from 3,500 different brands,” Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund, said in a prepared statement announcing the investment. “We’re thrilled to support [Plant Prefab] as they make sustainable, connected homes more accessible to customers and developers.”

Prefabricated home building—a home module that is manufactured in a factory and directly shipped and assembled quickly on a site—has been known to be built for lower-income earners. However, companies like Plant Prefab, plans to change that by developing high-end, custom designs that meet a new demand with modern finishes and eco-friendly materials.

“We are the first home factory in the nation dedicated to sustainable construction, materials, processes, and operations,” Plant Prefab says on its website. “We believe homes can and should be built in ways that minimize their negative impact on energy, water, resources — and the health of the people who live in our homes and who build them.”

Though the efficiency in materials and building may be a game changer for the industry—the demand is still somewhat limited. For instance, Plant Prefab has produced only a few dozen projects for buyers in California and Utah since it was spun out of LivingHomes in 2016, a design and development company.

This is an ideal opportunity for Amazon to tap into the smart home market in order to integrate their voice technology into the mass produced population. The brand has been committed to making consumers more connected to their home using smart home devices.