Smart homes the focus at Courts Funan store

The new 12,000 sq ft Courts Funan store houses a Google experience zone that lets consumers try out the tech giant's range of devices, from smartphones to smart speakers. PHOTO: COURTS
The new 12,000 sq ft Courts Funan store houses a Google experience zone that lets consumers try out the tech giant's range of devices, from smartphones to smart speakers. PHOTO: COURTS

SINGAPORE - Smart speakers, a rising product segment propelled by tech giant Google launching its Google Home speakers here last April, gave many Singapore consumers a first taste of what a smart home is like. Now, they are ready for more, said Courts Singapore country chief executive Ben Tan.

In an interview last week with The Straits Times after a media tour of the home electronics retailer's first Internet of Things (IoT) store at the revamped Funan mall, Mr Tan said growing demand for smart home devices is the reason Courts has built its 12,000 sq ft Funan store around this segment.

An estimated 80 per cent of the products in the store are compatible with smart home platforms such as the one anchored by the Google Assistant, Google's artificial intelligence-powered voice assistant software.

He said that most consumers are not looking to build a smart home from scratch, but are doing so one device at a time. Thus, it is important to users that they share a common platform, such as Google's, so that new devices in the future can work together with existing ones.

Mr Tan said that the Google Home Mini is Courts Singapore's bestselling smart speaker, though he declined to reveal sales figures. Market research firm GfK Asia told The Straits Times that smart speakers contributed to 80 per cent of the revenue in the home audio market for Singapore last year.

Globally, over 23 million Google smart speakers were shipped worldwide last year, an increase of 109.6 per cent over 2017, said market research firm Canalys. The firm also predicted that smart speaker makers will sell around 94 million smart speakers this year.

Running voice assistant software and fuelled by the popularity of music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, smart speakers can play streaming music as well as respond to queries and control other smart home gadgets.

The Funan store houses a Google experience zone - described as the first of its kind in the region - that lets consumers try Google's entire range of products in Singapore, from smartphones to the recently-launched Nest Hub smart display, which is similar to a smart speaker, but with a screen.

Mr Tan said: "The number of smart products available here that work with the Google Assistant has increased by 200 per cent this year vs last year. And that list continues to grow."

Also present at the Courts Funan store is the largest Samsung smart home experience zone in Singapore, where consumers can try out an integrated smart home in its entirety. For instance, they can open a door using a digital lock, see notifications from a security camera on a smart Samsung television and issue voice commands to smart home appliances such as washing machines and fridges.

Mr Tan also sees the advent of smart homes as an opportunity for Courts to offer additional services, such as setting up the devices and educating users on how to control their smart gadgets.

When asked what advice he had for those who are shopping for smart home gadgets, Mr Tan said: "Plan what you want to do and try to stick to a platform that meets your needs. For example, if you use a Samsung phone, you may want to go with Samsung's Bixby platform as it would be easier to use with your phone."