Amazon Buying Eero Could Create Tech’s Most Dangerous Data Company
Of all the devices slinging data in my home (and there are currently 29, according to my Eero mesh Wi-Fi router setup), the one that gobbles the most zeros and ones isn’t my Amazon Echo, Roku TV, Chromebook, or even my iPhone—it’s the nearly 10-year-old Dropcam that I use in my kids’ room.
It’s turned on all day, though I only use it during nap time and at night, which is an incredible waste of bandwidth, I know. And Comcast, my Internet provider, knows that too, because it charges me a fee for blowing past my data cap every month.
And soon Amazon will also know it after announcing yesterday that it would buy Eero for an undisclosed price.
Why should my personal data consumption be the business of the everything store? That’s the question many Eero customers are asking today as, like me, they look at the sleek, white, start-up-born pods around their homes that beam Internet to every far-flung bedroom. Soon these devices will also send our information to Amazon’s home in Seattle, or more likely one of their many data centers.
And to that end, Eero has its response ready:
From the perspective of corporate synergies, the Amazon-Eero merger couldn’t be smarter. Over the past four years, Amazon became the world’s most valuable company (at least for a brief period) by planting inexpensive voice assistants in homes worldwide, growing a small video streaming service into a movie studio powerhouse, buying smart home security company Ring for $1 billion, and growing its revenue by billions of dollars on the back of its cloud computing unit, among other sources.
Meanwhile, from the moment Eero first emerged in 2015, it has been hailed as Wi-Fi’s greatest hope. A year after its product first hit shelves, the startup delivered on its promise of making in-home Internet faster and more reliable.
Eero not only created the category of Wi-Fi mesh networking, it dominated it, standing toe-to-toe with connectivity and tech giants like Netgear and Google. Eero also refined its product’s hardware and software, making smaller, more convenient hubs and adding premium services like a VPN, enterprise-level security, an ad-blocker, and even kid-safe content-filtering.
Along on the road to its sale, Eero periodically released snippets of research—like a study of which U.S. cities had the most connected gadgets—demonstrating its ability to do so much more. Eero founder Nick Weaver even admitted broader ambitions in an interview with Fast Company, in which he pitched using his Internet pods as local computing boosters for Alexa devices. Amazon saw that potential and pounced on it. And whatever the price it paid to acquire Eero—whether it was cash, Amazon stock, or palates full of unused Fire phones—Amazon’s purchase will likely prove to be worth it over the long run.
The value proposition to consumers is similarly attractive. Why should my Dropcam eat away at my data cap when there’s clearly nothing happening in that room? Eero (or more likely an Eero connected to a Ring camera) could automatically throttle the bandwidth to that device, and boost the signal to another Amazon product, like a Fire TV, improving efficiencies and ultimately providing better products and services.
But the problem for consumers will come when they step out of Amazon’s ever-growing ecosystem and plug other devices into their Wi-Fi network. Who is to say that my Eero won’t one day slow my iPad in favor of an Amazon Fire Tablet, for example? If Eero’s tweet is to be believed, that won’t happen, but it’s the startup that has earned my trust, not Amazon, its soon-to-be corporate master. And if the conglomeration of tech has taught us anything, it’s that once companies users love—like Instagram or Nest—are acquired, all bets (and old policies) are off. Amazon declined Fortune’s request for comment for this story.
Eero, by its own admission, has tapped “data collected from hundred of thousands of Eeros” to reveal patterns about connected device ownership, time spent online, and even cord-cutting information. In its annual consumer data reports, the startup said it anonymizes this information and pairs it with surveys, but under the Amazon umbrella, there’s no guarantee of anonymity. In fact, that research will soon be a trove of proprietary Amazon information, helping the organization to do everything from refining video streaming services to informing manufacturing decisions related to the e-commerce giant’s future connected devices.
Pairing Eero’s insight with the vast analytics made available through AWS gives Amazon a full, vertical view of Internet users’ data demands—from the back-end to the back yard. With that information all in one place, who’s to say what’s possible? Certainly not Amazon.