Shopping for connected devices seems a lot like shopping for drugs. Finding someone willing to sell them to you is difficult. New buyers might not know what they’re looking for, and the chance of experiencing some form of buyer’s remorse the next morning is high. (Or so the latest “Grand Theft Auto” has taught me, anyway.)
Staples today announced the Staples Connect project to offer buyers a taste (of the connected products, of course, not the illicit substances) in its retail and online stores. The company plans to sell a central “Hub” through which buyers can control other Internet-connected household products, including smart thermostats, security-focused devices, and connected lightbulbs.
The Internet of Things has found its latest herald.
The platform will be powered by Zonoff, a startup that promises to help established companies join the rush to connect mundane objects to the Internet. Mike Harris, the company’s chief executive, says that the Staples partnership has been in the works for over a year.
“One of the things that everybody asks, which is the same question I asked after the first meeting, is ‘Why Staples?'” Harris says. “For me, what I found fascinating is that they have a very crisp and compelling vision of what they think the connected future is going to look like.”
Realizing that vision begins with Staples Connect, which will allow prospective buyers to test and learn about connected products in Staples’ retail and online stores. Instead of simply installing a kiosk that displays the same 15-second video over and over again, Staples is trying to create a better way for consumers to purchase connected products.
And there’s nothing the Internet of Things could use more than a better way to sell connected products. Companies can talk about the benefits of connecting refrigerators, locks, and other household objects to the Internet as much as they like — until people are able to see these benefits for themselves they’re unlikely to purchase the (often expensive) products.
“It’s just consumer awareness,” Harris says. “People don’t know what’s even possible. They aren’t searching on Google to find a solution for it, because they can’t even imagine what these products might be capable of.” A well-known retailer like Staples might be able to change that by providing a place where potential buyers can get their first taste of the connected future.
The first taste is always free.