Homepod — no, not that HomePod — wants to use autonomous drones to fly houses through the air so people can move from city-to-city with the touch of a button. The first step in this ambitious plan, they tell Inverse, is create a blockchain-based database of building materials so architects can evaluate the sustainability of their projects.
“I think in the future, the freelance model will be very decentralized,” said Andrei Toma, founder of Homepod, a startup in the Romanian city of Bacău. “We will not have as many property owners, and the spaces that we own will change very quickly.”
Toma is one of 11 entrepreneurs that was selected for the second year of the London-based Collective Global Accelerator, a four-week residency that started June 4 which supports startups looking to have a social impact. Over 4,600 applicants from 163 countries applied under this year’s theme, around startups that are creating stronger communities in cities.
Homepod may share the same name as Apple’s $349 smart speaker (minus the capitalized “P”) but that’s where the similarities end. Where the Siri-powered speaker uses A.I. to provide answers and play music, Toma’s vision extends further into the future: giant drones and capable of moving whole homes instantly, “the way spaceships connect to their mother spaceship.”
“Autonomy as a service will be the next move in the drone industry,” Toma says. “These drones can be programmed to pick up homes based on requests.”
The first step on this journey is the blockchain-based supply chain management system. Toma first started exploring this idea in 2010 when he was a student at London’s University for the Creative Arts, looking at how architects can manage waste in construction. The aim is to track the movement of every material through the supply chain and its carbon output, using machine learning to scan documents and collect data. The system can calculate a sustainability score for each project ranging between zero and 10.
“Our short-term plan is to make homes cost-efficient, energy efficient and more sustainable, meaning that we’ll have to discover all the building materials in the world to make the house a better place,” Toma says.
The system has around 1,450 users, 110 of which are active, spending around €16,000 ($18,800) per month. However, the company is not yet profitable as it spends around €10,000 ($11,800) on development, which they estimate is around 24 percent complete. However, the company plans to fully launch in October, following a six-month incubation period with a Romanian funding organization that’s also supporting the venture.
As for its flying house concept, Homepod is targeting a rental subscription model where users pay £1 million ($1.3 million) per year. That’s a pretty big rent check considering the average cost of buying in London is just £479,000 ($636,500), but Toma’s target audience is obviously on the affluent side: nomadic entrepreneurs and bankers that would value the convenience of moving home in the touch of a button.
Perhaps Homepod’s biggest hurdle will be advertising, particularly with the launch of Apple’s smart speaker. Toma is confident that Apple would not win a hypothetical legal case, as his startup was founded in 2014, well before HomePod’s launch in January, and the trademarks cover different classes. Toma admits the release has made search results “difficult to conquer,” but the company receives almost one million impressions per month from social media and Toma has no plans to change the name.
Apple did not respond to Inverse’s request for comment prior to publication.
Beyond the October launch, Toma plans to rapidly expand. The first step will be an office in London to raise investment capital for European expansion, with a long-term goal of reaching Asian and North American markets by 2020 and the Arab countries by 2021.
As for those flying houses? The company concedes that’s still likely a while away, with experts estimating that it won’t be feasible for another 10 to 20 years.