Two months after announcing that all of its stores will be RFID-enabled by the end of next year, giant retailer Target unveiled an in-store Internet of Things lab called Target Open House.
Clearly, Target is anticipating the day when all of the products it sells will not only carry RFID tags, but also communicate with each other at homes and in everyday life.
Target Open House, which the retailer calls “part retail space, part lab, part meeting venue for the connected home tech community” opened this month in San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center.
“From a strategic perspective, we see Internet of Things as a megatrend on the horizon,” Casey Carl, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, said in a release. “We know it’s going to generate huge value. We’re using Open House to test the trend, both for us and for guests.”
The 3,500 square-foot IoT learning lab features a transparent, acrylic “house,” furnished with acrylic furniture and other high-tech details. In its rooms, guests will experience vignettes that demonstrate in unprecedented ways how multiple connected devices can work together to create real-life solutions.
Instead of simply showing how a smart baby monitor functions, for instance, Open House connects it to other, sometimes unanticipated products like a lamp and even the coffee maker and speakers. Visitors can see how a baby’s stirring prompts soothing music on the sound system and a pot of Joe brewing in the kitchen.
“Putting a house in the space, we felt, was the most relatable and welcoming way to introduce these products,” says Todd Waterbury, Target’s chief creative officer. “What we’re trying to do is humanize and personalize the benefits of these products, as well as show them working in concert. It’s really about relevant storytelling and creating a destination for engagement and discovery.”
While the space is designed to demystify connected home products and inspire guests to explore the world of connected home living, Target also plans to learn from Open House. The retailer and its partners expect to study the real-time feedback they receive from consumers interacting with the products. The space will also be used to host meetings — from tech talks and meet-ups to product demos and product launches.
Target’s RFID rollout, meanwhile, will likely consume more than one billion tags annually during its first year. Target is spending $1 billion on supply chain and technology upgrades in 2015, and it appears RFID will consume a good portion of that budget.
Target’s rollout is expected to be the largest retail RFID deployment by the end of 2016. Initially, the retailer will tag items in three categories, including women’s apparel, baby and kids clothing and home décor. Target will tag women’s and children’s apparel at all 1,795 stores by the end of next year.
“When you think about the number of stores and the number of categories, it’s a lot of tags,” Bill Hardgrave, dean of the Harbert College of Business and founder of the RFID Lab at Auburn University, told RFID 24-7 in May. “The initial tagging for 2016 is probably just the tip of the iceberg. I think they will move into other categories very quickly, probably exponentially, because the infrastructure is in the store.”