Amazon invests in homebuilding startup, continues foray into the smart home

Photo via Plant Prefab.

Amazon’s march into the smart home continued this week with an investment in Plant Prefab, a Rialto, Calif.-based startup that builds prefabricated single and multi-family homes.

Amazon invested in Plant Prefab as part of its $200 million Alexa Fund, which launched in 2015 and is used by Amazon to invest in companies that will push the boundaries of voice-based interaction.

It’s Amazon’s first investment in a modular housing company such as Planet Prefab, whose CEO told Fast Company that it will work with Amazon to integrate Alexa into its homes.

“Voice has emerged as a delightful technology in the home, and there are now more than 20,000 Alexa-compatible smart home devices from 3,500 different brands,” Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund, said in a statement. “Plant Prefab is a leader in home design and an emerging, innovative player in home manufacturing. We’re thrilled to support them as they make sustainable, connected homes more accessible to customers and developers.”

Plant Prefab claims it can reduce home construction time by 50 percent and cost by 10-to-25 percent in major cities. It has installed 26 units across California and Utah. The company, which spunt out of LivingHomes, is similar to Blokable, a Seattle startup also developing modular housing and is co-founded by a former Amazon manager.

Amazon’s investment follows its product announcements last week that included a new Alexa-enabled microwave, clock, and audio-related devices for the home as the tech giant aims to get its voice platform everywhere. Earlier this year, it paid a reported $1 billion to acquire home security company Ring.

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