Frontdoor Makes AR Free for Home Service Pros

Tech Vision is Localogy’s series that spotlights emerging tech. Running semi-weekly, it reports on new technologies that Localogy analysts track, including strategic implications for local commerce. See the full series here.

One of the emerging subtopics of the broader CV-19 discussion that’s consuming our attention and stalling global commerce is how can technology support “high-touch” local businesses? We’re talking everything from industry conferences to routine medical procedures to cosmetics sales.

Elsewhere on that expansive list is home services. Clearly, social distancing protocols preclude, or at least challenge, the traditional ritual of service pros visiting your home to fix something. This is where Frontdoor-owned Streem can assist — even in normal times — through AR and your smartphone camera.

As we’ve examined, this brings the industrial AR concept of “see what I see” remote assistance to home services. In other words, home services pros can see and guide you through a service issue using your upheld smartphone — anything from setting up a wi-fi router to diagnosing a broken dishwasher.

Of course, this can’t replace an actual service visit in many cases, like fixing that dishwasher. But it can handle many “low-hanging-fruit” issues, like router setup. And in the case of a dishwasher or other heavy jobs, it can reduce and streamline the eventual technician visit. In fact, Streem can reduce truck rolls by 42 percent.

With that backdrop, Stream’s owner Frontdoor has made the service free to the contractors in its network. Operating home-service brands American Home Shield, HSA, Landmark and OneGuard, Frontdoor serves 2.2 million U.S. homes and 4  million annual service requests with a network of 17,000 contractors.

“The real estate industry and small businesses such as independent home service contractors sustain our economy,” said Frontdoor CEO Rex Tibbens in a statement. “By equipping them with Streem for free, they’re able to safely provide their critical expertise and services to homeowners during this unprecedented time. ”

As Tibbens mentioned, real estate is also part of this move. Though Streem works primarily on home services, real estate represents a growth opportunity. The idea is that agents can offer live virtual showings where they walk homebuyers through the house, answer their questions and get appliance measurements.

The real estate play will happen through partnerships already in place with nationwide real estate companies Realogy and Howard Hanna. Frontdoor plans to continue scaling up through additional partners, and the free use of Streem’s technology to show homes while social distancing should accelerate that goal.

Speaking of accelerating goals, making Streem free can be seen as both altruistic and opportunistic. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the latter (unless nefarious, which this isn’t) but should be acknowledged. This could embolden Frontdoor/Streem’s overall value to its contractor network and homeowners.

It could also accelerate AR in general through cost incentive (free) and necessity. As we’ve been saying, necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, it’s more discovery than invention, but new approaches to business operations could be found in this challenged period. That’s everything from remote work to events.

In that way, this could be AR’s chance to shine. The technology has been slow to get off the ground but greater impetus to adopt — such as needing to sell houses and fix dishwashers — could accelerate its traction. And that could have lasting effects when its non-pandemic values are realized on a larger scale.

In other words, Even in non-quarantine times, technologies like Streem can bring better customer experiences and more efficient logistics & operations for local service providers. It may just take a global crisis force that realization faster. That’s one silver lining, among others, we can look out for.

“Now more than ever, our homes are our sanctuaries – they’re where we live our daily lives, and even work, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold,” said Streem president and GM Ryan Fink in an announcement. “Streem is uniquely equipped to help keep families healthy and safe in their homes, and to allow service contractors, real estate professionals and others to continue to meet critical needs across our nation. We also know that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how we live and work and believe that this technology will have a transformative influence on how business is conducted going forward.”

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