What Happened to Luma WiFi?

What Happened to Luma WiFi?

Luma WiFi promised to change the way users created wireless networks in their homes. They wanted to offer a more affordable service that was easy to install. Luma included a host of features that were the preview of much bigger business systems.

Luma offered an alternative to costly and inconvenient home network upgrades. They did this offering a product that was easy to use for even the most non-tech-savvy users.

Yet after a splashy beginning in 2014, the company sold out to Newell Brands for $10 million in 2018. With the perception of unlimited potential, it is fair to ask where it all fell apart.

The Story Of Luma WiFi

The question of what happened to Luma WiFi has several unclear answers. Since the company still exists, albeit, under a new name, it is not quite accurate to say that it failed.

Like a lot of startups, Luma WiFi tried to offer something new to the marketplace. In situations like these, companies can try to improve on an existing product. They may also try to create and offer something unique. Luma WiFi seemed to be doing a little of both.

Household WiFi is by no means a new concept. In fact, 3 in 4 households in the US have a home WiFi system. So Luma WiFi was not trying to get into a market that was already saturated. They did not want to replace these networks, they wanted to improve upon them. Luma WiFi’s technology was aimed at making this a smooth process for anyone.

Their plan was to take the idea of a mesh network and introduce it to home WiFi. This technology is not new, but it was one that most household wireless networks did not employ.

The ideas Luma WiFi presented seem to have value. There seemed to be an ample marketplace for their product. The fact that their ideas to date have not lived up to the hype is a fascinating story to discuss.

How Luma WiFi Got Started

Luma WiFi started operation in 2014. The company was the brainchild of Dr. Paul Judge and Mike Van Bruinisse.

The pair had worked together at two different cybersecurity firms. The first was CipherTrust, and the second was Purewire.

The founders of the company felt that many homes lacked consistent WiFi quality. They also saw that these home networks lacked robust security protocols. At the time, these features existed only in more extensive business networks.

Judge highlighted this point when he said: “Cybersecurity must be built into the home network routers directly because IoT devices are vulnerable and users do not have the time to be the CISO [chief information security officer] of their home.”

Luma WiFi was able to raise roughly $22 million to start their company with investors like Yahoo chairman Maynard Webb and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York. While there seemed to be all manner of promise around this company, they just could not get a foothold in the market.

The Promise Offered to Consumers by Luma WiFi

Luma WiFi promised several things to consumers:

  • Their product would extend the range of your WiFi router
  • Your wireless network would have enhanced security
  • Users could completely control all devices connected to the network
  • The ability to see what is happening on every connected device
  • A suite of parental controls
  • An app that was available on iOs and Android that could access the network controls

Luma WiFi’s biggest promise was to easily extend the coverage of wireless networks. This extended range would occur because of their mesh network framework.

The advantage of a mesh network was that users did not need to be in the range of the router. Users could add nodes throughout their space. These nodes would communicate with each other in the mesh network. All of this would occur automatically with very little action needed on the part of the user.

This extension occurred without any degradation of the WiFi signal. The farther you needed to extend the range, the more nodes you could add.

Why a Mesh WiFi Network Has Better Signal Than a Traditional Network

The device that is called the wireless router makes up the central hub of the WiFi network. Today many of these routers are router/modem combo units.

Because of that, these units must live in specific locations in a home. They need access to the landline that is providing access to the internet provider running the home.

Depending on where this is in a home, it can mean the signal must travel long distances. Add in interference from walls and other electronic devices, and the signal can erode quite dramatically. That is why home networks sometimes have areas of low or no signal.

A mesh network is not a centralized system. One of the nodes of a mesh system connects to the broadband connection. From there, others connect to either that node or to other nodes. When combined, these nodes act as one, seamless network.

As a user, your device will connect to whatever node is closest. Best of all, there is no input needed on the part of the user. The mesh network handles communication between the nodes automatically.

The end result is a network that provides more speed and a more reliable connection. If the network needs expansion, add more nodes.

Why Expansion of a Mesh Network Is Easier Than a Traditional Network

The difference between a traditional network and a mesh network is signal location. In a traditional network, every device connecting must connect to the wireless router.

In a traditional network setup, there are limits to expansion choices. One common option is to use WiFi extenders.

These devices attempt to boost the WiFi signal. The problem with this approach is that they do not act as a mesh network. The extenders all need to communicate with the hub.

A mesh network is like a long chain with many links. Each link, no matter how far from the first link, has the same basic signal strength.

Using extenders is like a bike hub and spokes. No matter how many extenders are part of the network, they can only expand signal in a circle. This limits how far you can extend away from the hub.

A more reliable option is to run more ethernet cable through a home. This wired connection offers higher speeds and a more reliable connection to devices.

The problem with this choice is cost and logistics. Cables can run outside of the walls as an easy solution. This leads to the lengths of exposed cables throughout a home.

The other choice is to tear into existing walls to run cables there. Neither choice provides a convenient or cost-effective solution.

Other Luma WiFi Features

An easy method of creating an extensive wireless network was the big selling point of Luma WiFi. Their system also promised to offer a host of other benefits.

Low Cost

Running long lengths of cable to expand a traditional network is expensive. The nodes of Luma WiFi offered a much cheaper solution. These savings were exponential. The larger the space, the more expansion required, the bigger the savings. An added bonus was the ease of expansion that only required plugging in nodes.

One market that Luma WiFi would have surely thought was available was older homes. They also probably banked on these homes being large 3 and 4 bedroom homes spread over a large area. When combining size and older construction methods, these seemed to be areas ripe with wireless interference and dead zones.

When owners were faced with the cost and inconvenience of ripping up all the walls of their house to run ethernet cables to improve their wireless coverage, the Luma WiFi would seem like a great alternative.

A Portable Solution

A traditional home network is not portable. Wires are almost always necessary to achieve a good single. That means moving your network was near impossible.

With a small size and plug and play qualities, LumaWiFi can go almost anywhere. That means any part of a home, including outside the home. The beauty of Luma WiFi is that they do not need line-of-sight connections. As long as there are plenty of nodes, the signal strength should never be an issue.

So for homes that have a huge backyard, the thought of having great signal at the far reaches of the property was the perfect fit for Luma WiFi.

The Intelligence of The Mesh Network

The nodes of a mesh network have the ability to configure themselves. If there is a problem with one node, the rest can solve the problem. They can intelligently re-route signal paths to minimize drops in signal strength.

What this meant for the user was very little troubleshooting. If one of the nodes was not operating correctly it could be addressed.

No hunting up and down an ethernet cable was necessary to solve the issue. Simply repair or replace the problem node and the issue is resolved. The best part for those that were not tech-savvy, when you fixed the node, the rest of the network adjusted automatically.

Why It Was Not the Homerun Luma WiFi Envisioned

With so many features and a low price, it is fair to ask what happened to Luma WiFi. The starting point should be the facts of what happened. From there, a possible explanation of why is possible.

The Facts of What Happened

After only four years on the market, owners of Luma WiFi sold out to First Alert. First Alert is a company that makes carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

A report from Axios quoted a memo from the co-founder Paul judge. He stated that the sale would give Luma WiFi “much wider distribution, reach, and scale.”

It does not take a great business mind to see that this deal was no boon to investors of the company. They had raised 22 million dollars to start but then sold the entire thing for 10 million. It may be that the increased distribution Judge talked about may boost returns. That would be great for the investors, but who knows how long that will take.

Some of the Reasons Behind the Sale

So the real question of Luma WiFi is why didn’t it take off. The first thought has to be about need.

While 3 of 4 houses have a wireless network, it is hard to find data about how many suffer from lousy coverage. The Luma WiFi system prided itself on a considerable coverage range. There are plenty of homes where the coverage from a single wireless router is fine. When that is the case, what is the point of a Luma system?

Another selling point of Luma WiFi was increasing wireless security. Wireless networks are a booming market. It was only a matter of time before others got into the security market. Established router companies like D-Link and Netgear have begun adding the very features Luma WiFi prided itself upon.

The Competition

Beyond the question of need were the other players getting in this mesh network market. Today there are several players in the same marketplace.

One of those players is Google and their Google WiFi mesh network. This product has two advantages over Luma WiFi. It has the Google name recognition. It also can interact with mesh networks that control things like lights and thermostats in a home.

There Is No One Answer to Where Luma WiFi Went

Technology tends to change and evolve rapidly in today’s marketplace. When trying to get a foothold in any technology segment, there are many things you must do correctly.

Competition, a lack of need, or an inability to hit the ground running can spell disaster. In Luma WiFi’s case, they seemed to be the victim of all these factors and more.

Luma WiFi has by no means gone away. They had a promising start and cutting-edge technology. The issue seems to be that they never gained the traction the founders hoped to get.

Brett Gordon
 

Brett is the founder and editor-in-chief of GetInternet. Having clocked tons of time in the broadband industry, today, he’s dedicated to positioning GetInternet as a prime resource to simplify the broadband shopping experience.