US-based retailer Target has teamed up with a prominent design studio to develop a life-size smart home showcase. Designed by New York-based Local Projects and dubbed Open House, it’s a retail store that looks like a suburban home and will act as a kind of test lab for various connected home devices.
Right now it has a range of smart home devices from the likes of Nest and Philips, with diagrammatical arrows detailing their connections appearing digitally along the walls, along with pop-up text bubbles explaining their functions. The futuristic set-up is meant to walk consumers through the many potential uses of smart home products, which in ordinary retail stores can be difficult to highlight when placed next to regular, non-connected home devices; speaking to Wired, an executive in strategy and innovation with Target explained that explaining to consumer how the various smart home devices will work together “isn’t something we’ve seen in retail before,” adding that while it’s a “huge incoming trend… it’s still very nascent within consumer products.”
Indeed, smart home devices like the Amazon Echo voice command center may have utility to consumers, but only when they also have compatible devices like Philips Hue Lights that can respond to those commands – and this early in the game, many consumers just aren’t aware of what’s out there and how it’s all connected. In some respects the problem is worse still: There aren’t yet sufficient standards in the industry to make sure that devices from different companies can work together, so not even the makers of IoT products fully understand how their products will fit in the smart home ecosystem.
Undertakings like Target’s Open House retail space may help to find a solution. It isn’t just meant to sell smart home products to consumers; built in San Francisco – close to the tech hub of Silicon Valley – it’s meant to operate as a kind of laboratory in which retailers can learn more about consumers and what they’re looking for, and ultimately how to refine their products to make them more appealing – which will probably involve establishing a certain level of interconnectivity.