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Smart Home

Staples abandons its smart home hopes

As Connect changes hands, users wait to see what the future holds.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET
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Staples has officially announced that it's handing over sales and support for its home automation system Connect to Z-Wave Products. Though the exact terms of the deal remain undisclosed, Z-Wave has purchased Staples' inventory and licensed the Staples Connect brand to use moving forward. According to representatives at Zonoff, the company that has supported Connect's software and will continue to do so with Z-Wave, users should experience no practical change to their Connect automation systems.

This transition isn't a surprise to many industry watchers. Staples stopped selling the Connect hub months ago, and rumors began to swirl that the office supply retailer might be planning to unplug its internet of things ecosystem altogether. In April, the company said it would be releasing a statement about Connect's future sometime in the coming weeks. As many users waited anxiously, Staples finally opted to keep Connect alive, handing it off to a third-party caretaker.

Though Staples Connect changing hands doesn't signify the platform's demise, it raises questions for IoT customers and unearths anxieties dormant since Quirky's bankruptcy and Revolv's bricking. Yet again, home automation users are left wondering how much (or little) bang for their buck they really received when they shelled out hundreds of dollars for a smart home hub. But according to Kevin Garton, the chief marketing officer at Zonoff, Z-Wave is "very interested in continuing to grow and evolve the platform."

Precise plans remain to be announced.

Amazon Echo and Google Home are two products with the potential of changing the landscape for smart home technology, forcing brands like Connect to adopt "evolving business models."

Amazon Echo and Google Home are two products with the potential of changing the landscape for smart home technology, forcing brands like Connect to adopt "evolving business models."

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The shift of Staples Connect provides still more evidence of a fractious market for smart home tech. An office supply chain selling home automation technology always seemed like an odd combination, but Staples shedding Connect represents only a small piece of a larger market trend. The Z-Wave and Zigbee-based home automation systems that dominated smart home tech for the past few years are now giving way to bigger-name, voice-activated integration products like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Garton is hopeful that new products with greater visibility will contribute to industry awareness overall. But, he says, systems like Connect will have to adopt "evolving business models" to take advantage of the changing market.