Many are toying with “smart” devices for the home. But do the digital helpers really work? The start-up Tink offers smart home devices together with installation assistance and the appropriate services.
DThe term “smart home” often has a similar feeling to the “Internet of Things” or “agile methods”: a few know what the terms mean; the rest of them wonder why they should need this. However, devices in the home that are connected to the Internet – because this is what the term devised by marketing experts as a sub-area of the Internet of Things (IoT) stands for – have been enjoying an upswing for several years. According to various studies, every fifth to third household in Germany now has at least one “smart” device at home. According to a representative survey by the digital industry association Bitkom, the number of users is increasing by several percentage points every year.
Most often lamps are installed that can be controlled by app or voice command. This is followed by alarm systems and surveillance cameras connected to the Internet. According to a Statista forecast, smart home devices in Germany will have annual sales of 8.5 billion euros by 2025. It is mostly controlled via voice commands that are picked up by networked speakers such as Amazon’s “Echo”. Amazon, Apple and Google are competing with their voice assistants and the associated operating systems for networked household appliances for dominance in the smart home market.
“Our goal is to accompany the customer”
More and more people are interested in equipping their homes digitally. This is also shown by the growth figures of the Berlin start-up Tink. The company founded in 2016 – not to be confused with the Swedish fintech of the same name – sees itself as a guide through the variety of possible smart home devices. Because many of these products, if they are of low quality, can also harbor dangers. It was not until March that the headlines hit the news that hackers were able to hijack access to 150,000 Internet-based surveillance cameras from an American manufacturer and publish camera images from factories and clinics on the Internet. “Our goal is to accompany the customer and introduce them to safe products,” says Marius Lissautzki, 45 years old and one of the two Tink founders, in an interview with the FAZ
In the service of this goal, Tink initially operates an online shop for smart home devices, but combines their sale on the one hand with detailed advice and support during installation and on the other hand with services linked to the devices. For example, the start-up has been cooperating with the energy supplier Vattenfall for three years and markets smart heating systems as a package with a corresponding gas tariff. There is a similar cooperation with Generali-Versicherung. There are networked alarm systems or smoke detectors in a package with household contents insurance.
Tink is profitable
With the approach of bringing the various components of the smart home together in this way and marketing them to end customers in a user-friendly way, Tink hits a nerve. More than 700,000 customers have bought at least once from the start-up so far. Sales in the first quarter of this year doubled compared to the same period last year. For 2020 it was 66 million euros. In addition, the company is now making a profit, say the Tink founders. Nevertheless, Tink received just another 40 million euros from investors in order to grow internationally and expand its product portfolio.
Accompanying customers in discovering the new technology is particularly necessary in Germany, which is skeptical of digitization, says Julian Hueck, the 35-year-old second Tink founder. But it is also very much appreciated. It is about “making useful technologies usable at home” and “keeping the entry barrier as low as possible”. That is why the company promises to guarantee that the devices purchased from them will work. If a customer has problems installing their devices, a helper comes home free of charge.
Depending on the type of problem, Tink relies on electricians or even just IT students – they have access to 2000 employees, all of whom have been trained, it is said. “When it comes to software installation, customers are extremely grateful when someone simply comes along who can not only set up the device, but also explain it – so that it works,” says Lissautzki. Tink also offers video advice for the preparation of the actual purchase. With 110 employees, the consulting team is the largest in the company.
Manufacturers like the start-up
Getting smart home devices and services from a single source also makes the start-up popular with manufacturers of networked devices. “The Tink platform creates significant added value for Bosch by connecting us with other IoT brands and integrating corresponding services,” Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner said. It was the manufacturers who motivated them to quickly internationalize their business, says Lissautzki. And that’s what Tink does: With Germany, Austria, the Benelux countries and the United States, the start-up is already active in six countries. By the end of next year there should be at least 14, including all major European markets.
If you ask Marius Lissautzki whether we will be living in houses in the future as you know them from science fiction films, he shakes his head: “You probably won’t see the technology very well, everything will work very intuitively.” Exactly by simply shouting commands to your home. But he is sure that there will also be smart home refusers in the future. It will be like the smartphone. A few people kept their button cell phones, the rest are beginning to be connected.