KB Home debuts new energy storage solutions
KB Home is launching a pilot program for a set of new energy storage solutions, developed in collaboration with SunPower Corp., in its Irvine, El Dorado Hills and San Diego markets.
The new high-efficiency solar power systems store solar energy by day and offer an alternative energy source for use during power outages or other situations.
These latest developments come after KB Home and SunPower installed a 3-kilowatt high-efficiency photovoltaic system in its communities in Arizona. High-efficiency solar power systems are already available in thousands of houses built by KB Home.
The eventual vision? To roll out the technology in more communities soon, as well as provide similar battery storage technology to charge electric cars, according to the company.
With HD as its platform, Quirky plays the smart home field
Quirky, the New York City-based start-up that stakes its claim on propelling everyday ideas into products, has set its sights on leveling the playing field within the burgeoning smart home industry.
According to a report in The New York Times, Quirky is launching a separate company, called Wink, in July, which will provide an integrated software solution to connect dozens of automated home products. Those products, in turn, will hit Home Depot shelves.
There will be one app to rule them all, so to speak — which is not dissimilar to Apple’s recent bid to introduce the "remote control" of smart home apps.
Companies on board with Wink include General Electric, Honeywell and Philips, as well as lesser-known start-ups in the field, according to the Times. The initial product assortment will total 60 Wink-enabled products, which will be displayed in nearly all Home Depot stores nationwide as of July 7.
Some of those products will be "Wink app ready," meaning they can be linked to an existing Internet router; some will be "Wink app compatible," which will require the purchase of a Wink hardware hub, to be sold in Home Depot stores and Amazon.com.
Quirky fields thousands of product submissions every week, which it whittles down to three using a participatory voting process. It then takes those products and brings them to fruition, ultimately marketing them through major retailers and putting profits in the hands of small-time inventors. When more and more ideas starting coming in for smart home products, the natural next step was to invest more resources in this market opportunity.
Lowe’s marches to omnichannel drummer
Mooresville, North Carolina-based Lowe’s CFO Bob Hull added color to the company’s effort to maximize its multichannel efficiencies and move away from a build-stores-and-they-will-come approach to growth.
[Read about Lowe’s first quarter earnings here.]
Speaking during the Oppenheimer 14th Annual Consumer Conference, Hull also said that 2013 was the best comp-store sales performance for the No. 2 home improvement chain since 2005, and he pointed to some of the reasons.
It begins, he said, with “improved capabilities within existing stores and across other channels,” as the company transforms into a “customer-centered omnichannel retailer.”
Two keys to that transformation, he said, is to sell seamlessly across channels and to expand fulfillment capabilities.
Also, in 2013 more than 1400 stores were reset with revised endcap strategy and promotional spaces combined with “value improvement” line reviews and resets.
The online e-commerce component is taking on new levels of sophistication, according to Mike Jones, Lowe’s chief customer officer, who also participated in the Oppenheimer presentation.
“For us, online is not just about transactions, although we do that really well,” he said. “It’s about how do you pull that whole project together and leverage our call centers and other assets to manage that project.”
Regarding the macroeconomic conditions, Hull pointed to a first-quarter survey in which customers said they are feeling better about the opportunity to invest in their home.