As consumers continue to crave more connected home devices, the Home Depot says it sees all kinds of multitasking tech. People are no longer just looking to increase security, improve energy efficiency, or control lawn sprinklers, but want to find new ways to bring more parts of their homes in sync. Amanda Parrilli, the Atlanta-based retailer’s director of business development for Smart Home, came back from the recent Consumer Electronics Show with some fresh insights.
Q. What were the biggest new ideas for home?
A. There weren’t many — we saw more evolutionary ideas and new entrants than new ideas. Last year, there were just a few video doorbells for example, while this year there were plenty. And there were more items that combined functions that have already been available, in smart ways. And new ways to buy things are coming. For example, connected security is really big, and ADT is introducing Canopy, which will let consumers buy on a month-to-month basis, providing a great value.
Q. What was your favorite example of multitasking?
A. There were a lot of new ideas in lighting. For instance, there was a motion-activated outdoor lighting system that also included a camera. And there are recessed ceiling lights that now contain speakers, so you can listen to music without having speakers clutter up your counter.
Q. Are most homes ready for more connected devices?
A. Any connected device is only as good as a home’s WiFi, and so it was interesting to see so many things at CES that addressed that. In most people’s homes, the router is obscure and hidden in a corner somewhere. New products that make the router more attractive and more prominent also make it stronger, and more user-friendly. So you can check which devices are online, and more accurately use parental controls, shutting a kid’s tablet off at 9 p.m. And it makes your data more secure.
Q. But no real game-changers?
A. Some of the connected appliances are intriguing. Samsung showed a fridge that had a screen on the front that acts as a family hub, using it as a calendar instead of the clutter of magnets and paper. There’s a camera inside, so you can use your smartphone from the office to see if you have milk. And there’s a range that you turn on remotely, so you can come home to a preheated oven.
Q. What are your current best-selling categories?
A. Thermostats. There is a great payback for consumers who invest in those. And connected garage door openers — people like not having to worry about whether they shut their garage door or not.
Q. Lowe’s, a competitor, has made a big splash with its Iris, and Best Buy is increasingly selling home electronics. How does that change the way the Home Depot sells these devices?
A. It is very important to us that we be the authority for these devices. And we’ve been competing against Best Buy for a long time, in terms of appliances. But everything in our stores is about homes, so our approach is different. While we may group connected options in one place, they’ll also be found in their respective aisles — the Nest thermostats will be with all the other thermostats.