Start-Up Bumblebee Brings Furniture into Smart Home Management

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2Q 2021 | IN-6151

Smart home management has begun to integrate furniture, focusing on easy reconfiguration for multi-use spaces.

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Bumblebee's first NYC Installations


San Francisco-based start-up, Bumblebee, has just installed its ceiling-hung furniture in a handful of apartments in a new development in East Harlem, NYC. The company’s offering is a ceiling frame which can support a selection of modular furniture—including a bed, storage cabinets, a desk, etc.—which can them be lowered when needed and raised back up to the ceiling when not. Key to the offering is the ongoing urbanization taking place globally and the required shift in homes to maximizing multiple uses for the same space within a home. In addition, the furniture is driven by smart capabilities that can extend into wider smart home integration.

Bumblebee Targets Over 100,000 Installations by 2024


The Bumblebee offering consists of a frame attached to the ceiling to which a selection of modular furniture can be suspended. The system extends from the ceiling by 14 inches (35.5 cm). A low voltage motor enables individual compartments to be raised and lowered, supporting compartments weighing up to 90 pounds (40.8 kgs), and a bed platform with a weight limit around 130 pounds (60 kg).

Bumblebee, a four-year-old, 30-person company, that has raised over US$20 million in venture funding, says it will retain responsibility for installing and maintaining its devices in homes that will range from rented to owner-occupier, retrofit to new build, small urban apartments to the largest single residences. Pricing ranges from US$10,000 to US$30,000, and the company will sell to developers and landlords rather than directly to consumers. In addition, the ability to produce furniture with the attributions needed to be included in the system will be supported by a range of furniture makers. The company aims to have their product installed in more than 100,000 homes by 2024.

Smart home capabilities are key to the functioning of the system. Image sensing is installed around the room where the Bumblebee is installed to ensure that bed or bins only descend when there is not obstruction underneath, and similarly ensures that the return to the ceiling is equally monitored. Image recognition and on-board cameras also provide real-time views into the storage cabinets so contents can be checked without having to lower the units.

System controls extend to smartphones through Wi-Fi connectivity, as the Bumblebee system is developed to use only CAN or Ethernet for communications between sensors, cameras, and the control system.

Smarter Living Through Smart Furniture and Smart Home Integraton


Currently, the Bumblebee system can be controlled and integrated with smart home platforms via smartphone integration. HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Alexa are all supported platforms that can be used to support voice control. However, not all the smart home capabilities will depend upon those integrations. Bumblebee maintains that although it will “stand on the shoulders of those platforms” for some integration into wider smart home capabilities—for example managing the Bumblebee device through calendar appointments—it captures enough data to drive a range of value-added functionality. These include end-user opt-in features such as using object recognition systems to create inventory and make those items searchable. This can also extend into replenishment services for restocking or tracking movement to understand wellness and behavior. The company insists it will not leverage the data being generated and collected for direct monetization, only to support customer opt-in services. Those fees would be paid directly by the consumer, or as a building management fee.

Last year, ABI Research set out its vision for the Transformational Smart Home (AN-5336). Within that model there is a growing understanding of how residential space will have to be reconfigurable in ways that will make such changes automated and intelligent. Spaces will have to be reconfigurable effortlessly, so changes can be made throughout the day. A smart home system would be able to manage that process driven by a range of parameters such as time of day, ongoing or planned activities, individual preferences, or a system capable of determining which individuals are in the home.

Bumblebee certainly speaks to that vision, and integration into wider smart home control offers the promise of more comfortable and efficient home experiences. Such implementations will increasingly draw in more and more home furnishing offerings, driven not just by the technology of smart sensing, AI/ML, and above all connectivity, but also the wider demands of a connected economy and a changing global environment. The ability to tie wider system understanding in the Bumblebee platform and vice versa will be a key and early test of such capabilities and the immediate appeal to building managers, landlords, and consumers alike.



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