Roku smart home items pop up at Walmart stores

A set of Roku smart light strips as they appeared at a Walmart store.
A set of Roku smart light strips as they appeared at a Walmart store. (Photo by “Negative Source” via Reddit.com, Graphic by The Desk)

Roku is known for its budget-line of easy-to-use streaming hardware. Now, the company appears to be branching into the broader smart home market.

This week, a Reddit user named “Negative Space” posted a photo of Roku-branded LED light strips that they said were available at a local Walmart store.

The light strips are part of an upcoming brand called Roku Smart Home that will see the streaming platform use white-label versions of items manufactured by Wyze, including Wi-Fi controlled light bulbs, smart plugs and surveillance cameras.

According to customs records reviewed by The Desk, Roku began importing several smart home items in late September, including the smart LED light strip and a two-pack of color-capable, A19-type smart bulbs. The items were manufactured and shipped by Hualai Technology, a China-based company that makes similar items for Wyze and other brands, with items arriving at the Port of Oakland earlier this month.

Roku’s desire to enter the smart home market was not exactly a secret: Last year, Protocol reporter Janko Roettgers spotted a job listing in which Roku sought to hire for the position of Director of Product Management, Home Technologies. The listing, according to Roettgers, said the person hired for the position would “develop [Roku’s] home technology product strategy.” Damir Skripic was ultimately hired away from Amazon for the role.

Roku has two big reasons for wanting to enter the smart home market: Google and Amazon. Both companies offer their own line of streaming media players that are integrated with smart home products. Amazon Fire TV users, for instance, can view live video from their Ring doorbell cameras, or use their Alexa-powered voice remotes to control smart lights, window openers and other items that are compatible with the smart assistant.

In their job listing, Roku seemed to acknowledge that Amazon and Google’s smart home integration gave them a competitive edge over Roku.

“While we are well-positioned to help shape the future of television — including TV advertising — around the world, continued success relies on investing in IoT-driven technologies,” the job listing said, using the initialism for “Internet of Things,” an industry term for smart home objects.

Less clear is how much Roku intends to charge for the white-label Wyze items, or whether the market will see additional items to come. The “SE” branding on the items spotted at Walmart suggest Roku intended the products to land on store shelves around the holiday shopping season; for years, Roku has partnered with Walmart on an “SE” line of its streaming devices, which are often sold below $20.

Roku currently trades with Amazon for the dominant position in the domestic streaming television market. It is a distant fifth in the global streaming market, behind Samsung’s Tizen, LG’s webOS, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV.