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When is a shop not a shop?
- December 9, 2019
- Steve Rogerson
Last week, I had an unusual retail experience; I went into a shop that doesn’t sell anything. This was a proper bricks-and-mortar shop run by Samsung in a revitalised development area behind King’s Cross railway station in London.
The idea behind the 1900m2 retail space in the Coal Drops Yard shopping mall is to demonstrate the Korean tech giant’s IoT technology with everything from smart homes to connected cars. I was given a personal demonstration by Benedict Adu Omiri (pictured) of a smart dashboard that could find its way into real on-road vehicles sooner than many may think.
“We are talking with a few of the car manufacturers but we are not revealing who or how many,” he told me, “but it is due to be launched sometime next year.”
The car will also recognise other vehicles and pedestrians from their shape and highlight them on the in-car screen. Well, sort of. Omiri turned this on and we waited till some one passed near the car. And it worked, but it also identified their shadow on the wall as another person; we were indoors after all.
The retail space is called Samsung KX and is here to demonstrate but not sell the technology.
“You can’t buy products, it is not a shop,” said Sam Herring from Samsung’s PR company. “It is a brand builder and a vision of the future.”
It also contains Samsung’s answer to the Apple Genius Bars with a support lounge where users of Samsung devices from all over the world can walk in and get expert advice on whatever problem they have.
“A lot of the time, we can fix things while people wait but even most of the harder problems we can turn them round in 24 hours,” said Herring.
He did, say, he doesn’t expect people walking in with big screen TVs or kitchen appliances; it is more geared to phones and tablets.
The area, OK I won’t call it as shop, is dominated by a ten-metre-wide curved screen that is used to host film nights and gaming tournaments. There is also a smart living room area and a connected kitchen, seen in the background of the picture. What caught my eye in the kitchen was a stand up cupboard that looked a little bit like a fridge but was really a personal dry cleaner. Though well above the price range for the average householder, it, Herring believes, will soon be picked up by top hotels as an extra in-room amenity next the trouser press and minibar.
There was, of course, a connected fridge, the contents of which you can view from the smart car dashboard – no longer trying to remember if you have any tomatoes when you pull up at the supermarket.
I particularly liked the screen on the fridge that can be linked to the big-screen TV in the living room. Invite some friends round to watch the football and you will not miss any of the action when you head to the kitchen for more beers.
By some time next year, all Samsung appliances will be smart in some way, said Omiri.
I was impressed with this demonstration zone and the company hopes that, as the redevelopment around the area continues, footfall will increase. But, can you really not buy anything here? Herring looked at me and shrugged. “We do have computers,” he said. “You can order online.” Ah, of course.