Smart Home services draw in mass retailers

Major U.S. retail brands and the world’s largest online retailers have launched smart home automation offerings in the past six months and more are sure to follow.

In July, Amazon launched its Home Automation store, which aggregates home automation devices and consumer tutorials on the site. But it is the foray by big box home and office supplies retailer Staples into home automation that is the more important of the two announcements. Starting in November this year, the company will be selling its own Connect home automation platform and related devices to control a range of connected devices that manage lights, heating, and blinds with a mobile app.

Staples Connect includes a gateway device, the Staples Connect Hub from Linksys, which can attach to a number of Staples-approved wireless connected home device  from vendors including Lutron, Philips, GE, Honeywell, Yale, and First Alert. Applications primarily cover lighting, security applications, and some energy management functions.

Staples Connect is not the first retail play into managed home automation offerings. It is similar to the Lowe’s Iris program that launched last year. Both Lowe’s and Staples are aiming to simplify home automation with selected kits and bundles, as well as providing system management and smartphone connectivity and control. Price-wise, Staples says there will be no subscription cost for the device control and app service. Lowe’s also has a basic version at no cost, but that can be upgraded to a greater functionality and control offering for $10 per month. The Lowe’s kit price ranges from $179 to $299; so far, the only pricing information from Staples is $99 for the Connect gateway.

While Staples, Lowe’s, and even Amazon will compete for customers, to a degree, they are also all major retailers helping to expand awareness and the adoption of home automation devices into the broader consumer market. In addition, the integrated device management platforms from Staples and Lowe’s show how the largest retailers in the United States are increasingly looking to sell smart devices and also provide the key control and device management services. These platforms often dictate which devices can connect to the system and restrict where the devices can be purchased, forming the foundation for recurring sales as end users become increasingly invested in their home automation services.