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What Happened to Wink?

May 28, 2019

Smart Home

Over the past couple months, I’ve been briefed by a variety of smart home vendors for my upcoming Smart Home Market Overview report. Throughout this process, I found myself asking, what the heck happened to Wink? When I was writing the previous iteration of this report 2 years ago, Wink seemed to be vying for the role as a leading smart home hub manufacturer alongside SmartThings, which was acquired by Samsung in 2014. At the time, Amazon Echo and Google Home devices hadn’t quite hit the smart home scene, so smart home hubs were the best means for consumers to build an ecosystem of devices that could talk to each other (alongside apps like IFTTT). While most companies now have integrations with Amazon, Google, or Apple that allow their devices to interface via the cloud, hubs still play an important role in fostering interoperability in the smart home (though I blogged about how this could change in the future). So, what happened?

Stagnation and a Tumultuous History

As a research analyst, I found myself digging around to solve this mystery. As it turns out, Wink has not been selling products. It has been about 6 months since the company’s products were available. According to an official Reddit response in April 2019, the company is aware of the issue, stating that “platform stability and product development is the focus for early 2019.” 

However, Wink has had a tumultuous history of ownership that leaves me skeptical of its ability to persevere. Wink has been around for nearly 10 years, when it originated from a partnership between GE and tech incubator Quirky. Wink was then spun off and sold to Flex (formerly Flextronics) when Quirky itself went bankrupt in 2015. Wink’s future then seemed to become even more dismal when the company i.am+, owned by musician and tech entrepreneur will.i.am, acquired Wink in July 2017. will.i.am has made several investments in the tech industry, most recently raising $117 million for a customer service voice assistant platform. However, will.i.am has arguably had more misses than hits; one reviewer stated the i.am+ smart watch, the Puls, was “the worst product I’ve touched all year.”

The Future of Wink Is an Uphill Struggle

Seeing a company with such potential and a strong mission for solving a fundamental problem in the smart home struggling is a shame, especially since the smart home has become more prevalent than ever. However, with the current market landscape, it’s hard to imagine Wink will be able to stay competitive. Large players are investing heavily in the smart home space; Amazon has included a Zigbee radio in its Echo Plus to bring hub capabilities to its Alexa-enabled speakers and Comcast’s routers now include multiple antennas that allow them to act as a home automation hub. The fact that Wink is lagging in the market so profoundly means it faces an uphill battle it might not survive.