Need to Know
- Ikea has previewed its 2020 smart home offerings, focusing on connectivity and ease-of-approach.
- The massive home retailer has struggled in the past to enter the smart home market but has a reinvigorated approach featuring Shortcut Buttons, a Home Smart app, better onboarding procedures, and wireless, multi-purpose products.
- The global smart home market is forecast to reach a value of more than $53 billion USD by 2022.
- Ikea’s pure scale of serving one billion people per year gives it a huge advantage in the market, especially as it considers partnerships with leading specialty retailers like Sonos
- By focusing on the home first, and making it smart second, Ikea is slowly expanding the Home Smart team into its own division.
Smart home products are a massive market, garnering billions of dollars of sales each year and making the lives of consumers easier and more intuitive.
Ikea has not been hugely successful in putting tech at the forefront of its products. Uppleva, Ikea’s failed TV from 2012, has taught its new Home Smart team some huge lessons.
Since then, the team has gone to great lengths to improve its buggy, non-linking smart devices, and the sheer size of the furniture-come-tech company, as well as their deeply felt responsibility for improving the home, may have a huge impact on smart home developments in the future.
Recently, Ikea previewed its 2020 smart home offerings, showing off what the next year of connected ultra-modern furniture and products will look like.
Their biggest addition? Shortcut Buttons that will link all of the Ikea smart devices including blinds, lights, speakers, switches, and dimmers together and create a “scene” for $7 each. By pressing one button that can sit on a table or be attached to a wall, consumers can set a “bedtime” scene by turning off the music and the lights, or a “movie night” scene and dim the lights, turn on the music, and shut the blinds.
“We’d like to go beyond the resident geek of the home and invite more people in,” says Bilgi Karan, who’s responsible for the Home Smart user experience. “Physical interfaces are a fantastic way of doing that.”
Scenes are created in the Home Smart app on the phone and help guests or children navigate the new smart home with ease. They also help to control a home without having to use an always-listening speaker: Ikea’s speakers don’t include microphones (but can be controlled via other products thanks to Zigbee).
Speaking of Zigbee, Ikea has joined the board of the organization’s alliance, which ensures that the retailer is using established standards for smart devices. This also guarantees that their devices will be compatible with Zigbee controllers, the most popular of which is the Amazon Echo Plus.
Based on the design philosophy of “make space, don’t take space”, and their Ikea’s 300+ hours of “home visit” interviews per year, the Home Smart team has blended tech into usable products, like wireless chargers that are also lamps, smart lighting and blinds, and a Sonos partnership for their speakers.
The company believes that their intimate knowledge of the home gives them a leg up on tech competitors, which is why their product range is called Home Smart, not Smart Home.
“It means the life at home is more important than technology,” says Björn Block, who’s in charge of Ikea’s Home Smart business. “The technology is a tool to make things work, but we’re not launching things just because it’s cool technology.”
They’re infiltrating their room-based showrooms with smart products, not creating smart products for people’s rooms, which is also their biggest advantage. Ikea is already entering homes with inexpensive solutions, and the first product that people introduce into their ecosystem is the one they tend to end up sticking with.
An example of the scale of their impact can be seen in their switch to exclusively offering LED lightbulbs in 2012 so that, as they say, everyone could afford to live more sustainably. This one move drove the cost of LEDs from €10 to €1 for a two-pack today.
The pure fact that over one billion people purchase from Ikea every year means that its move into the smart home, whether through a partnership with leading giants like Sonos or through their own slow-trodding and humble ambition, is going to change the landscape for tech as well.