UK department store chain, John Lewis, is making a concerted push into the smart home technology market today with the launch of a new area in its London Oxford Street store.

Four interactive zones focusing on the kitchen, entertainment, sleep and home monitoring make up 1,000 sq ft of floor space in the flagship store, with the aim of demonstrating to customers how technology can be used to control their homes through the touch of an app on their smart device.

John Lewis says its specially trained staff will showcase how smart technology can instinctively respond to human behaviour, following today's launch (Thursday 7 April).

The move comes at a time when the retailer is reporting that 18 times more people are searching for smart home products on its website, compared to one year before. Sales of smart home products as a category at John Lewis have apparently increased by 81% year-on-year from 2014 to 2015.

Inside the new John Lewis smart home area in the retailer's Oxford Street store

John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis, tweeted on Thursday that he was expecting "another big day" for the company.

"Can't wait to share what we've been working on this past year," he added.

Commenting further, he said: "Smart home technology is designed to make life more convenient, and the introduction of this new curated experience – the first on the high street – marks a brilliant step in innovation for John Lewis.  

"Showcasing the latest smart products, this experience demonstrates in a real-life setting, how technology has exciting and far-reaching implications for today's lifestyles."

Products included in the smart home zone, including the Samsung Family Hub Smart Fridge which has a built-in touchscreen that brightens up automatically as people approach it and allows consumers to internet shop from their fridge, will be available to buy in-store and online.

The potential of smart home technology and the growing potential of the Internet of Things for consumers has been on the John Lewis radar for some time. Last year, the retailer co-hosted a party in London's Shoreditch with Alfred Smart Home, a company that has created an app allowing consumers to control all their connected devices and utilities from one central portal.

Alfred was a finalist in the 2015 version of the department store chain's start-up accelerator programme, JLAB, which runs every 12 months and aims to uncover the latest technology that will relevantly impact consumers' lives.

John Lewis is planning to roll out the smart home experience it has created in London to other shops across its UK estate, beginning with its new Leeds store which is scheduled to open in autumn 2016.