Inside Target's All-Acrylic Connected Home

San Francisco Location Seeks to Introduce Consumers to Internet of Things, Woo Silicon Valley

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Target's Open House
Target's Open House

There's a rainstorm in the middle of the night, and water has begun leaking into the house. Activated by the incoming water, a smart device buzzes. Sensing the homeowners are awake, via a Jawbone fitness bracelet, the lights turn on. The homeowners receive a notification, alerting them that the leak is in the basement.

That's one scenario presented in Target's experimental Open House, the company's first connected home lab dedicated to illustrating the company's commitment to smart-home technology.

The company will launch Open House, located in San Francisco adjacent to City Target, to the public on Friday. (It's set to stay open indefinitely.) The space features tabletops with 35 different smart devices -- ranging from a Mr. Coffee coffee maker to a Sonos music player to Hue light bulbs to a Petnet pet feeder and a Nest thermostat -- with instructions for each device and details on how the devices can be interconnected with one another.

Target's goal with its connected home is to identify where retail needs to be in the future. The Minneapolis-based company hopes to deepen its relationship with Silicon Valley startups and technologists, inviting them into the space and potentially partnering on new devices. Target also, of course, wants to show consumers that having a connected home isn't out of reach, technologically or financially.

The bedroom in Target's Open House
The bedroom in Target's Open House

"Innovation is a critical part of our belief system," said Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Casey Carl, a Target veteran who was promoted to his current role in December. "My role ... is to further that innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. That means pushing for products and retail services in new ways, whether it's new markets, new channels or new products themselves. But it's also about a far more disruptive force, in looking at where Target needs to go, how the guest experience can evolve and how we can create new businesses."

The 3,500 square-foot space is a faux home made entirely of acrylic, complete with a bedroom, a kitchen, a nursery and a garage. The impetus to use acrylic for everything from walls to furniture, said Chief Creative Officer Todd Waterbury, was because when Target was testing out a connected home space using furniture, executives discovered that people were distracted by the furniture and wanted to buy it, not the connected devices. So to shift the focus onto the devices, Target created an acrylic space where everything blends into the background except the devices. As an ode to San Francisco's famous housing stock, the exterior trim has Victorian embellishments.

Open House will have all 35 products for sale, one-third of which are also available in most Target stores. The company said, though, that it may also be prototyping new products from Open House that aren't yet available on the market.

Here's a brief tour of the Target Open House:

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