Apple HomeKit Experience Centers Do Smart Home Demos the Right Way
As it looks to educate consumers about the larger role it can play in their homes, Apple has rolled out new HomeKit experience centers in several dozen of its retail locations around the globe. According to a recent report by TechCrunch, Apple launched the smart home setups in 46 of its stores—31 here in the U.S. and another 15 in stores overseas.
Situated over a retail rack of HomeKit-enabled products, the display includes large digital monitors that show a living room and bedroom, and an iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch with the Home app open. Visitors to the display can use the devices to interact with the scene to “control” the Philips Hue lightbulbs, turn on and off the Hunter ceiling fan, lower and raise the shades, test out scenes, and more.
With the introduction of iOS10 last year, Apple made a much stronger play in the home automation space. Included in the update was their Home app, which simplified the smart home experience for entry-level consumers. From one app, users could all of a sudden access their lights, shades, locks, and more. And Apple’s integration in the smart home is only going to get deeper when the new HomePod speaker rolls out later this year. Similar to Amazon’s Alexa service—available on Echo devices—HomePod will use Siri as its main platform and act as a smart home hub, allowing users to deliver voice commands to control their HomeKit connected products.
Apple’s smart home play aside, the new displays should raise the eyebrows of every retailer and smart home hub platform and manufacturer out there for one very simple, and very Apple-esque reason: it’s simplicity.
Much like anything it does, Apple has found a way to take what can be a confusing and messy technology and boiled it down into a simple in-store display that tells the almost the full story about what home automation can mean for the consumer. And they did it in a way that doesn’t require a huge amount of space, large demo rooms, or a whole demo home to get the point across. People who walk up to the HomeKit experience center can engage with the display as if they were actually in the room on the screen in front of them; they can interact with the Apple devices to get sense of what the Home app is capable of; and they can get educated on the possibilities of a truly smart home.
There’s no major time commitment involved with visiting the display—no appointments are necessary, and there’s no need to even interact with a sales floor employee. The HomeKit experience center is a very self-explanatory type of retail display.
One of the major themes that came up during a recent panel discussion on the connected lifestyle at CE Week 2017 was the fact that education is a major hurdle for adoption. The manufacturers on the panel talked about how they were working in their specific markets to better educate consumers around the benefits of and use cases for smart gadgets.
But the retailer, arguably, plays a much larger role. They are on the front lines with the consumer, and in most cases they (and their sales floor staff) are the spokespeople for the brands that are on the shelves in their stores. Short of having a dedicated smart home representative on the floor at all times, an interactive display might be the best way to help educate the consumer. For one, it’s far more cost effective than building out an entire room dedicated to smart products—a point that should pique the interest of smaller retailers. And then there’s the interface itself, which actually shows the user how they can control their home through an app on their phone. It’s one thing to explain the smart home experience. It’s another to actually see the products in action.
While full-scale demo areas might seem impressive, it’s Apple’s simplistic approach that looks to be the most effective way to help educate the consumer—and it’s a method I’m sure we’ll see replicated elsewhere around the CE retail market soon enough.