SAN FRANCISCO – If you want to get a sense of how a smart home might work, you should take a trip to the Target at the Metreon complex here.
The retailing giant Friday unveiled a sort-of high-tech showroom it calls “Open House” directly beneath its Metreon store on the first level of the complex. Open House includes a mock-up of an actual house made of translucent acrylic that’s intended to show consumers how home automation products might work together in various rooms and situations in sophisticated ways.
“Fundamentally, we have this great belief in the Internet of Things and the connected home,” said David Newman, the company’s director of enterprise growth initiatives. Open House’s “primary purpose is to bring together all the really critical parties to figure out what the future is going to hold.”
As consumers walk into the space from its Fourth Street entrance, they’ll find the acrylic house, which has some subtle Victorian touches such as a simulated bay window and etched gingerbread decoration. At the front door, they’ll find a smart doorbell made by Ring and a connected door lock from August. Inside the house, they’ll find a living room, a bedroom, a nursery, a kitchen and even a garage and artificial turf lawn.
In each room, consumers will find tablets that can play various scenarios. In the living room, for instance, they can see what might happen if a burglar were to come in through one of the bay windows. In that case, a sensor on the window would detect the burglar, notifying a user on her phone. The system might then trigger the Philips Hue light bulbs to blink red and a message to come out of the Sonos speaker in the room.
Alternatively, in the bedroom, Open House demonstrates how a user wearing one of the latest Jawbone fitness trackers can, by simply lying down to go to sleep, trigger the doors to lock and the lights to turn off.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Meenal Patel, a San Francisco resident who was among the first to tour the Open House space. “It’s so great to be able to see all these products and how they are integrated together,” added Patel, a 31-year-old graphic designer.
To the left of the mock-up house, Target has a display area where users can get more in-depth information. Each of the products is sitting on a touch-screen display that demonstrates how the gadget works, what other devices it will work with and what technology is used to connect them.
Betsy Tilkemeier, an executive recruiting consultant from Chicago who toured Open House, was impressed with the showroom. Tilkemeier, whose clients include consumer product companies, was impressed that the facility is an example of “experiential retail,” which allows consumers to touch and feel and understand products before they buy them.
“It’s about discovery,” she said. “It’s the only way to win these days.”
Among the products on display are everything from Nest thermostats and smoke detectors to a connected Crock-Pot slow cooker to a wearable sensor from Mimo that can detect when a baby is awake or crying. Consumers can buy all of the 30-odd gadgets on display in the showroom, although about two-thirds aren’t sold in regular Target stores.
But Target representatives said the main point of the space isn’t to sell products, at least not yet. Instead, the company is exploring how to market and display smart home gadgets and how to educate consumers and its own employees about them. The retail giant is also hoping the facility will serve as a bridge between startup companies making Internet of Things devices and the retail world.
Open House might help those companies get their products on store shelves and help both sides work out some of the important issues that are facing the home automation industry, such as incompatible standards and privacy and security threats, said Eddie Baeb, a Target spokesman.
Another early visitor, Calgary resident Paul Kurchina, 54, owns several smart home gadgets and works as a consultant for software companies including some in the Internet of Things market, so he’s pretty clued into home automation. But even he learned something from the display – that a Jawbone device can talk to a Nest thermostat.
Although Kurchina thought the plastic house and furnishings felt a bit cold, he liked how Open House showed how various smart home products could work together.
The showroom “helps make it more real for people,” he said.
Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285. Follow him at Twitter.com/troywolv.
Showcasing the smart home
Target’s new Open House space shows off how home automation products work together.
What is it? Dubbed “Open House,” the space is a showroom for smart home products.
When did it open? Friday.
Where is it? On the first floor of San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center, under the City Target store
What’s on display? More than 30 home automation gadgets, including smart locks, thermostats and baby monitors.