Target’s New ‘Open House’ Puts Internet of Things on Display

MINNEAPOLIS (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS) -

Target Corp. is set to open Friday an experimental store in San Francisco that will help consumers explore how connected devices can work together in their homes.

The 3,500-square-foot lab of sorts is called “Open House” and is located below one of its CityTarget stores in a space where it had run a C9 Active Apparel store since 2012. The store features about 35 devices available for sale, such as a Nest Thermostat, a Sonos music player, and a Ring smart doorbell. Only about a third of the products are currently sold in Target stores.

Eddie Baeb, a Target spokesman, said that if successful, the Minneapolis-based retailer could replicate some of those presentations in its big-box stores down the road. The company obviously believes the potential for connected home devices in the so-called Internet of Things could be a big win for the retailer.

“Knowing that it’s going to be such a disruptive and major trend and growth area overall, this is to help us figure out how does Target play there,” said Baeb. “One thing we’ve found is that retailers haven’t really cracked the code yet. Many consumers don’t fully understand the products.”

Inside the store, Target has constructed a mock-up house with acrylic see-through walls. The house features several rooms including a living room, a garage, a bedroom and a nursery. In each room, visitors can see how each connected device can work with one another. For example, the smart door lock triggers the music speakers to begin playing and then activates a smart plant feeder that tells the homeowner if the plant needs to be watered. The visitors can see those different vignettes come to life in the store by choosing one of a number of scenarios from nearby touchscreens.

The experimental store comes out of the work of the “enterprise growth initiatives team” led by executive Casey Carl, who was promoted to chief strategy and innovation officer by CEO Brian Cornell last year.

Baeb added that Open House doesn’t give customers a glimpse of the future.

“All of the vignettes we show are things you can do today,” he said.

Target, which set up a tech office in San Francisco a few years ago, will also use the Open House space to host weekly tech talks, demonstrations and product launches for the startup community.