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The retail giant's connected-home concept store in San Francisco showcases dozens of cool IoT products for the home, but buyers are still on their own.
Welcome to the Target Open Home store
Last week Target opened its Open Home concept store right next to the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, home to many high-profile tech conferences. The 3,500-square-foot space sits below a City Target store, in the Metreon shopping and entertainment complex—the same building where Sony and Microsoft once hosted their own technology concept stores (long since closed). One Target exec described the installation as "part retail store, part learning lab, part meeting space," and there are plans to devote Thursday evenings for smart home events in the space, Target says, from tech talks and meet-ups to product demos and product launches.
Something old and something new
The Target Open Home store is a replica of a San Francisco Victorian, tricked out with 35 currently available Internet of Things/smart home products that the company has yoked together to provide integrated solutions tied to some of the various rooms in a typical house. There's cool rainbow lighting, too! According the company, the installation is designed to "demonstrate in unprecedented ways how multiple connected devices can work together to create real-life solutions."
The living room of the future… today?
The Target Open House living room links together Sonos speakers, Nest thermostats and video cameras, Philips Hue lighting, Ring smart doorbells, and August connected door locks to create a seamless home automation experience. Each room in the house has interactive projections that indicate which products work with each other and what the combination may let you do. According to a statement from Todd Waterbury, Target's chief creative officer, "What we're trying to do is humanize and personalize the benefits of these products, as well as show them working in concert. It's really about relevant storytelling and creating a destination for engagement and discovery."
Even babies are connected (kind of)
The house features a nursery connecting baby monitors, scales, sound systems, and lights to make it easier to handle childcare duties, playing soothing music and soft lighting when the baby needs attention, for example. But there's something decidedly creepy about this crib with a headless baby.
Grilling is an essential component of any smart home
The Target Open Home also features a connected propane grill with IoT devices that can tell your smartphone how much gas is left in the tank and how rare your steaks are.
Who doesn't want an acrylic motorcycle?
For some reason, the Target Open Home store features a full-sized mockup of a motorcycle between the nursery and deck. It doesn't seem to have any IoT or smart home features, but it's still kind of awesome!
Home smart home
Many of the products demonstrated in the Target Open Home are available for sale at Target, and all of them are for sale right there at the exhibit, as shown here. I saw plenty of people browsing but no one buying. Still, that's not really the point. According to one sales person recently relocated from Target HQ in Minnesota, the real point is to demonstrate the potential for the technology, to Target, to device makers, to the tech industry, and to potential buyers, not to drive massive sales from a single location. There are no current plans to expand the project to other cities.
Interactive displays show how it all works together
Each product has an interactive touchscreen display in the showroom area—called Deep Dive tables—that offers information on the products. That's a big deal, because not all the products work with each other, although almost all work with at least one other device. The promise is real, but so are the challenges for anyone who wanted to recreate this functionality in a real house. Some of the connections were custom developed by Target using third-party scripting such as Yonomi or IFTTT—and for now, at least, Target is not ready to help buyers make these products work together as shown. But perhaps Target's efforts will help encourage device makers to improve these connections with each other.
The connections can be surprising
Some of the connections between devices are pretty clever. Linking the smart coffee maker to the smart baby monitor so coffee starts brewing if the baby wakes up might occur only to new parents, but it could really make a difference to sleep-deprived caregivers trying to soothe a fussy infant in the middle of the night.
Smart home connections go beyond the home
To be truly useful, of course, the IoT in the home needs to connect to other kinds of devices, as shown in this display. It's very clever to be able connect a workout with being hot, but it may not make sense to cool an entire house just because someone has been working out. And what happens if there's more than one person living there? Do you get dueling thermostats?