Last month, when we tested and reviewed Staples’ new Staples Connect home control hub and ecosystem, we were impressed (and surprised) by the splash that Staples is making in the home automation space. We loved the in-store presentation, pricing, and breadth of available devices but hoped for some usability improvements and looked forward to seeing their offering grow.
Well we didn’t have to wait very long. This week at CES, Staples and Zonoff, the technology behind Staples Connect, announced planned updates to the ecosystem, showed off numerous improvements to the existing system, and demonstrated some new proof-of-concept features.
First up is a bevy of new device partners. Joining Staples’ already strong product lineup sourced by companies like Lutron, Philips, GE, and Schlage are ten new companies, including Kwikset, Netgear, Withings, and Goji. Additionally, they’ve announced planned support for ZigBee, Bluetooth, and INSTEON products, nicely rounding out the radio and protocol support offered by Staples Connect’s already powerful home hub.
As we indicated in our earlier review, while we were concerned about some of the user experience decisions and overall usability of the Staples Connect app, we recognized that it was a 1.0 product and would more than likely improve over time. And so it has already. Zonoff is already working through a long list of planned enhancements and refinements, and they were surprisingly open to hearing our feedback. They’re iterating quickly, incorporating user feedback, and pushing updates to users across platforms.
While it’s unclear what additional new devices and capabilities might ultimately find their way to Staples’ platform, some of the most interesting things we saw from Zonoff were projects currently under development.
Imagine a smart TV app that could overlay notifications on your television to alert you of events around your home…say, the doorbell or noise and movement in the baby’s room. How about the ability to control your family room lighting or responding to the doorbell by unlocking your door…all from an app overlay on the TV?
Wearing an Up wrist band? Then you’re pressing a button on your wrist every night when you go to bed and every morning when you awaken. Why not have that button do something besides switching modes? In the morning, your Up could open the blinds, adjust the thermostat, and start the coffee brewing. At night it could trigger a “bedtime” scene that turns off lights around your house and locks all your doors.
In Zonoff’s experimental demonstrations, a lamp could notify us of Twitter updates. Or a leak could change the color of the lights to a “red alert” state. There are seemingly endless possibilities—across devices, across protocols, and across control platforms.
Staples’ connected home platform may still be in its infancy, but Staples and Zonoff have put a tremendous amount of thought into solving some of the biggest problems in the space, including setup, integration, and ease of use. Soon Staples will be expanding its in-store presence, including a new display in its Manhattan store on Broadway. But if you can’t wait for Connect to show up in your local Staples, just go online to staples.com.