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Staples Connect Hub Links Home And Office Technology To Smartphones

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While the premise of a “connected home” or even a “connected office” still hasn’t completely caught on among average consumers, a new release from Staples may open the door for the emerging trend that promotes comfort and personal safety.

Staples is bringing the idea of connected homes and offices to the mainstream with the release of Staples Connect, an offering that allows customers to control their home and office technology with a multi-platform mobile app.

Staples Connect consists of a mobile app, which was developed by Zonoff, and a universal wireless “Hub” powered by Linksys. Together, the technologies can connect multiple lighting, climate control and safety products at once. Customers can use the app on their smartphone, tablet or PC to access the solution from anywhere and at any time. The Staples Connect Hub will be available online and in a limited number of Staples stores for $99 in November 2013.

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“Staples Connect gives consumers looking for a home or office automation solution a broad selection of products to choose from, featuring the top names in safety, lighting, heating and cooling,” said Mike Edwards, EVP of Merchandising at Staples. The solution currently is compatible with products from brands including GE, Honeywell, Lutron and Philips. 

More than 20 products from premium brands will be available when Staples Connect officially launches, according to Mike Harris, CEO of Zonoff. He added that what will truly differentiate the Staples Connect platform is ease of use. “It is designed to be really seamless when consumers get started. Then, consumers have opportunities to educate themselves and learn how to grow their system.”

The offering also is designed to give users the confidence to leave their office or home unattended, without having to spend money on individual security items, such as cameras or locks.

“Before, If you were going to be interested in this ‘connected home and office’ concept, you would have to go to each of the different manufacturers, buy their specific wireless protocol, download their app, and walk through a series of steps,” said Peter Gerstberger, Senior Merchant of New Business Development at Staples. “You could imagine that getting messy pretty quickly if you were going to invest in a full DIY system.”

Bringing Staples Connect To Stores

Staples will soon be bringing the Connect concept to brick-and-mortar stores, eliminating the need for homegrown strategies. An interactive Staples Connect retail kiosk consisting of a 12-ft. display with an embedded tablet will be placed in select stores. A sample of connected lights and blinds also will be placed in the displays so consumers can see Connect in action.

“Imagine you’re a customer and you come into the store and walk by this display,” Gerstberger said. “Since we have all these sensors on it, the minute a customer walks by it, it’s going to sense a customer is there and it’s going to light up. It’s actually going to invite you to experience that connected home. Through the tablet itself, you’re going to be able to open and close all the devices.”

The kiosk will be displayed to the public for the first time at the GigaOM Mobilize event to be held in San Francisco on October 16 and 17, 2013.

Consumers can either set up Staples Connect themselves, or have it implemented through Staples EasyTech Services. A “starter kit” is available, or consumers can choose the specific products they would like to connect as part of a discounted bundle package.

“[The Hub] really helped this concept evolve from a connected home, to a smart and intelligent home,” Gerstberger said. “You want this to work for you without having to do anything. I think that’s really the core of the software design.”

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The Journey To Creating Staples Connect

Increasing differences in wireless standards between different vendors inspired the Staples team to produce a less convoluted, “wireless protocol-agnostic” solution that the average consumer or small business could easily utilize.

“No one really wants to become an expert on different wireless technology,” Gerstberger said. “They just want technology to work. I set out on a journey to figure out how we could solve this issue and bring a connected home product to our customers.”

According to Gerstberger, the journey started in 2012, when he met Harris at a product display meeting held by a mutual partner of both companies. After meeting, Harris and Gerstberger realized they had similar goals, so the decision to enter a partnership was immediate. Shortly after, Gerstberger and Staples spent time onboarding trusted brands within the industry, while Harris and the Zonoff team developed the app onto the specific Staples Connect platform.

“One of the things we found to be so exciting in a partnership with Staples is that there’s such a shared vision of being able to take the technology to the regular consumer,” said Harris. He added that with the release of Staples Connect, the companies are able to take the concept “out of the hands of just the luxury consumers, early adopters and hackers that traditionally had access to this technology.”

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