Verizon hires Belkin exec to jump-start smart-home business

Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) has hired Ohad Zeira, formerly the head of Belkin's WeMo home-automation product line, to oversee the company's smartphone and home-automation efforts, according to NextMarket Insights. Zeira will relocate from California to Verizon's headquarters in Basking Ridge, N.J.

According to Zeira's LinkedIn profile, he managed the launch of Belkin's WeMo Home Control solution and oversaw the company's relationship with key retailers of the product. At deadline, Verizon had not responded to inquiries about Zeira's new role at the company.

Verizon had a home-monitoring and -control product that it offered to FiOS customers starting in 2011. The product let customers control security cameras, lighting, door locks and thermostats with their FiOS TV remote and through a mobile application and website. Verizon stopped accepting new orders for the product in October of 2013 but continued to let existing customers use the service for a fee of $9.99 a month.

When Verizon originally launched the service, it sold a $69.99 starter kit that included a security camera and a lighting module that could be used to control a single lamp. It increased the price for the starter kit to $90 in 2012, and in spring 2013 it began to offer free, refurbished home-automation starter kits to FiOS customers who agreed to add the $9.99 monthly service to their bundles.

Meanwhile, Verizon rival AT&T (NYSE: T) has been heavily promoting its AT&T Digital Life Connected Home service, which it offers in 82 markets in the U.S. and is expanding to new cities and suburban areas. In a recent interview with FierceWireless, Kevin Peterson, senior vice president of AT&T Digital Life services, predicted that the company's Digital Lfe product could become a $1 billion business for AT&T.

Besides offering it to U.S. customers, AT&T is also conducting a limited trial of the service with Telefónica, which has been licensing the technology in the UK for the past several months.

Of course, Verizon also faces competition from cable MSOs, such as Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), which market their respective Xfinity Home and IntelligentHome products to broadband subscribers.

For more:
- See this NextMarket Insights article

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