Home for the Holidays

Retailers Dedicate Space to the Smart Home

Best_Buy_connected_l Best Buy is giving a big boost to the smart home.

Best Buy already has large home theatre corners with simulated living rooms and mouth-watering HD screens, but it’s now revealed plans to set up connected home sections in more than 400 of its stores this autumn. There will be smart locks, connected bulbs, intelligent thermostats and Internet-enabled security cameras. Best Buy says it will carry more than 100 smart home product, from brands including Belkin, D-Link, Dropcam, Honeywell, Kwikset, Linksys, Nest, Netgear and Philips. There will also be specially trained staff to explain, sell and install the gear.

Smart home products are moving front and centre in the US thanks to dedication from major American retail chains, but Best Buy’s move is perhaps the biggest shot in the arm for a product segment looking to become mainstream. Connected home products are currently scattered in end-of-aisle retail displays across stores like Best Buy, with manufacturers’ representatives handing out brochures. The products are treated as special and high-end, and that adds to the sense of uncertainty and risk for consumers.

Making smart home products mainstream might not be easy — staff at chains like Best Buy will certainly have some explaining to do. Floor employees will need to be comfortable talking technology in a language that consumers understand, making sense of the mishmash of new acronyms and incompatible connectivity specs. Products from one manufacturer won’t necessarily communicate with others — light bulbs from Philips, for example, might not work alongside connected bulbs from another company. Third-party hacks can solve some of these problems, but the industry should to take a step back and agree on standards if makeshift fixes are needed at all.

This is a typical gestation period for a new industry. In the end, the market decides — usually correctly — which products and services should succeed. Major retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot, Staples and Target have recognised the opportunities in smart home products for this holiday season. It could be that 2015 is the year when many smartphone-friendly households adopt smart home products. The Internet of things should be a hot topic for the New Year. The right products will rise to the top.