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Target’s Open House in San Francisco

Why Sears, Target, & Walmart are all Betting Big on Home Automation

The concept of home automation is one that is slowly creeping into mass consciousness. While some people out there think the smart home may just be a fad, we at Josh.ai believe that the way we interact with machines and devices is changing on a larger level, and the home is the next consumer space due for a tech upgrade.

We’re not the only ones who believe this. Big tech companies have been racing to establish themselves in this space (see Apple’s HomeKit, Google’s Nest, and Samsung’s SmartThings), and lines have already been drawn in the sand to setup a nice little war between the tech giants.

Beyond tech companies, many major retailers have committed to stocking and selling these products, offering further evidence that DIY home automation is here to stay. Here is what we see in the retail landscape today for home automation products intended for the masses:

Lowe’s has been at this for a few years, gradually increasing the quality and capability of it’s home solution called Iris. 2013 seemed to be a breakthrough year for the product, as it started to become more of a full-fledged solution rather than application for a single problem. On the company’s website, Iris is understandably front and center, but a quick search shows that they do sell other popular brands such as Nest and Honeywell.

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Last fall, Best Buy announced that it’s updating 400 stores to include Connected Home departments. It features popular brands such as Nest and Belkin Wemo, but also some of lesser known items such as Rachio and Chamberlain MyQ. All items are also available for sale on its website.

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At CES 2015, Sears revealed its connected home strategy, proving it was going all-in on the smart home market. The retail veteran initially committed shelf and floor space to connected products in 200 stores by summertime, including a massive 3,900 sq foot showroom in its San Bruno store. To be clear, this San Bruno location is more than just a showroom, it is actually setup like a house (complete with bedrooms) that demonstrates how all these products fit and work together. We like this approach, more of an educational display as opposed to straight sales pitch, because it helps the consumer understand how useful a connected home solution can really be, which is important in this young industry.

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Similar to Sears, Target is also taking the approach to educate the masses rather than just sell to them. In July 2015, the Minneapolis based retailer introduced Open House in SF, a retail space devoted solely to connected products. As part of the experience, you can walk into the store and explore the connected “bedroom,” complete with Sonos speakers, a Nest thermostat, and Philips Hue lights. Every product is also for sale, including some fun items such as a connected basketball and smart pet feeder.

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Betting on a new technology industry sometimes means a few bumps along the road though. Last summer, The Home Depot made the decision to devote shelf space to connected gadgets, and it seemed to bet big on Wink, the hub made by Quirky — but what a difference a year makes. Quirky has since filed for bankruptcy (which is another interesting story entirely), and has sold Wink off to Flextronics. As of this writing, Wink seems determined to fight to stay alive, as it continues to add new partners to its integration. In any new industry, though, there will be failures, so this is not entirely surprising. The Home Depot does continue to offer other popular smart home products that are doing just fine.

The ultimate in mass reach: if Walmart is now selling DIY products, we can safely assume the industry is headed towards mainstream acceptance. Checking out Walmart’s home automation site, it is selling everything from the popular Nest thermostats to Philips Hue (though some of the items are only available online through 3rd party vendors).

With these big players investing heavily into home automation, it’s no wonder the market is expected to top $100 Billion by 2020. Follow us on Medium and stay in touch to learn more.

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