Retail giant John Lewis has today launched a new department in its flagship Oxford Street store, dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart home devices. According to IT director Paul Coby, the 1,000 square foot space will aim to “demystify the concept of the smart home”.
The retail giant has said that the need to open a specific department became clear after an 81 percent rise in sales of smart home products in the past year. A designated space to exhibit and explain connected home devices is certainly a vote of confidence from John Lewis that this trend will continue.
Coby clearly sees John Lewis’ role as more than just a retailer. He said: “We know there is a lot of noise around the IoT. Techies talk about connected things and devices, while other people talk about the smart home, and what we want to do is inform customers of what smart technology can provide.”
The new department will be divided into four different zones, covering devices for use in the kitchen, entertainment, sleep and home monitoring. Among the products on display is the Samsung Family Hub Smart Fridge, which made a big impression at CES 2016 back in January. The device has a touch screen that brightens up as you approach, allows users to food shop over the internet from the fridge, and has cameras inside the door that allow the contents to be viewed remotely.
Many vendors could hinder IoT adoption
Speaking with Internet of Business, Philipp Schuster, MD UK of smart home specialists Loxone, highlighted the potential issues that could arise with multiple devices from different manufacturers.
“Many smart home devices already use the IoT in principle by connecting to the cloud to store and exchange data over the internet. However the ‘Internet of Things’ can mean many different standards and ways of communicating. So smart gadgets by different vendors do not connect and exchange data effectively with each other. As a result, consumer adoption is hindered because the advantages that these services can deliver are limited,” he said.
Schuster believes that “a favourable approach to overcome this is a holistic solution, in which all items in the home communicate with one point that acts as the ‘brain’ of the house. It ensures data remains in-house, reduces security threats and enables localised smart control.”
On the opening of John Lewis’ new IoT department, Schuster added: “Consisting of a multitude of devices with different purposes, the Internet of Things can become a maze that most consumers struggle to navigate. Education about the tangible benefits is key for the wider adoption of smart devices and, with its new department dedicated to IoT, John Lewis will be ideally placed to help with this process.
“However, while this is a step forward, the reality is that many of the IoT devices currently available to consumers complicate the user experience, with superfluous features and added complexity, and this needs to be addressed before we see mass consumer adoption.”