Controls, Interviews + Opinion

Interview: Derek Richardson of Deako On Resi Smart Controls



I had the pleasure of interviewing Derek Richardson, CEO of Deako, about their unique approach to residential smart lighting controls.

Shiller: Derek, thank you for sharing your expertise with LightNOW readers. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Deako until recently, but Deako seems to have a very large footprint in residential new construction. Can you please describe the extent of Deako’s new construction market share? I’ve heard 1 in 6 new homes in the US. Is that true? What are some of the largest resi builders that are using Deako?

Richardson: Over the last few years, Deako has seen rapid growth through word of mouth referral.  Our products speak for themselves allowing us to put marketing spends on the backburner. We’ve secured partnerships with high volume production builders on national and local scales including D.R. Horton, Meritage, Toll Brothers, Taylor Morrison, Stone Martin, and Adams Homes, and have expanded further into custom and renovation builders, as well as multi-family and build-to-rent. Until recently, we have focused on serving the largest builders in the nation but are now expanding to many more. Today we work with builders building $200K homes all the way up to $15M homes.

Some builders already offer a full security and smart home solution but only include a few smart switches that don’t meet the needs of customers. Other builders want to make it easier for homebuyers to add smart lighting after they move in but don’t know how. The flexibility of our modular system really allows any builder to create the right solution for their customer base, and learn what customers want by easily offering choices that don’t complicate construction processes. Any customer can plug-in a switch at any time without an electrician saving builders and homeowners a lot of time and hassle.

Shiller: The Deako product line on the web site appears to focus on a variety of smart switches, sensor switches, timer switches, as well as a smart plug. I don’t see any smart lamps nor luminaires, other than the smart switch with the nightlight. Does Deako have any plans to move into smart lamps or luminaires?   

Richardson: At Deako, we believe there is tremendous opportunity in making whole home smart lighting easy to install, set up and maintain without breaking a home buyer’s budget. There are lots of amazing companies out there selling great lighting products. We want to bring something new to the table and for this reason, we don’t plan to join in on that space at this time.

Shiller: Can you explain the philosophy behind the plug-n-play modular component aspect of Deako’s smart switches? It seems unique to me in the controls world. What are the biggest benefits of this modular component aspect of Deako controls? What are the use cases for the modularity?

Richardson: Deako’s plug-n-play concept offers numerous benefits to both builders and homebuyers. This innovative approach allows for flexibility and convenience in incorporating smart lighting solutions. The main advantages include:
Ease of Installation and Upgrades: Unlike traditional electrical upgrades that often require complex construction changes, Deako’s modular switches can be easily added or upgraded at any point. The plug-n-play design simplifies the process, eliminating the need for scheduling electricians and avoiding disruptions to the construction timeline. Deako’s range of modular components accommodates various use cases, such as motion sensors, timers, dimmers, and automated switches. This caters to different scenarios and preferences, ensuring that homeowners can tailor their lighting setups to suit their needs.

Adaptability to Market Conditions: The modularity of Deako’s switches enables builders to offer customizable packages and incentives to buyers. If market conditions change, builders can adjust their offerings without the need for extensive construction alterations. This adaptability can be crucial in maintaining profit margins and responding to shifts in demand. Also, instead of reducing home prices during negotiations, builders can offer smart lighting packages, thereby maintaining their profit margins. The absence of construction changes or scheduling issues makes this viable.

Educational Support: Deako collaborates with builders to educate potential buyers about the benefits of smart lighting. This ensures that even buyers who may not be familiar with the concept can understand and appreciate the value. Through this strategy builders can effectively market the technology as an enticing feature that can boost the resale value of a home.

Post-Completion Upgrades: Deako’s modularity allows homeowners to easily upgrade or modify switches even after the home construction is complete. This offers homeowners the flexibility to adapt their smart lighting solutions to their evolving needs over time.

Shiller: The Deako website and all of the spec sheets that I reviewed are almost silent about the wireless protocols used by Deako controls. Do Deako controls operate on Bluetooth mesh, Wifi, both, or some other protocol? What is the rationale for not discussing it on the website nor spec sheets? 

Richardson: Our smart products operate using both Bluetooth and WiFi. Bluetooth mesh is utilized for communication between devices and with the user’s phone, while WiFi serves for OTA updates and remote access. This design eliminates the need for a dedicated hub while enhancing integration. The primary target audience is consumers, often new homeowners unfamiliar with smart lighting, making the focus on ease of use rather than technical specifications.

Our rationale for not extensively discussing wireless protocols on the website or spec sheets stems from our customer-centric approach. The end consumer typically seeks reliability and convenience rather than delving into wireless standards. This approach ensures that smart lighting works effectively, and aligns with a builder’s reputation and homeowners’ expectations.

The choice of Bluetooth mesh brings reliability due to low power, low latency flooded mesh network. This is well-suited for our wired switches and their architectural requirements. WiFi serves as a bridge to the Internet, enabling remote access and cloud-based integrations like Alexa or Google Home. The intention is to avoid overwhelming the WiFi network with numerous smart devices, enhancing overall network performance.

Shiller: Can you share anything about where Deako is heading next in terms of products to be released, and new markets to be pursued?

Richardson: Deako’s goal is to give everyone the ability to personalize lighting controls in their home, even those with minimal electrical experience. Along the way, we’ll work towards features and products that deliver value to both consumers and builders. While we can’t share too much about what’s next for Deako, we can assure you that innovative updates are in the pipeline. Once our backplates are installed into a home it future-proofs each build for all Deako products and offerings to come.

Shiller: Is there anything else that you’d like to share about Deako that we haven’t covered yet?

Richardson: To further cater to the needs of every customer, we actually have our own team of lighting consultants who add a human element to customer service and help consumers get acclimated to the idea of smart tech. Each potential customer can opt to receive product recommendations, custom discounts, room-by-room plans, and cost estimates, tailored to specific needs. At Deako, we believe that education is a core step toward adoption and ensures that resources are accessible to all.

Thank you to Derek Richardson. More information about Deako can be found here.

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David Shiller
David Shiller is the Publisher of LightNOW, and President of Lighting Solution Development, a North American consulting firm providing business development services to advanced lighting manufacturers. The ALA awarded David the Pillar of the Industry Award. David has co-chaired ALA’s Engineering Committee since 2010. David established MaxLite’s OEM component sales into a multi-million dollar division. He invented GU24 lamps while leading ENERGY STAR lighting programs for the US EPA. David has been published in leading lighting publications, including LD+A, enLIGHTenment Magazine, LEDs Magazine, and more.


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