A microchip off the new Block
Swedish furniture giant Ikea is heading in a smart new direction
IT’S hard to imagine there are many homes in the UK that don’t contain at least one little piece of Sweden. Ikea is, almost literally, everywhere. And since it’s already the first thought in most people’s minds when it comes to kitting out the home, it makes sense for Ikea to go all in on the next phase of interior furnishing – the smart home.
Having already dipped its toe in the water, Ikea revealed this week that it’s investing heavily in smart home tech, and has created a whole new division within the company to transform its business.
“At Ikea we want to continue to offer products for a better life at home for the many people going forward. In order to do so, we need to explore products and solutions beyond conventional home furnishing,” says Björn Block, head of the new Ikea Home Smart Business Unit at Ikea.
Ikea already has a smart home platform, and has slowly been developing it over the last half decade – it now boasts a range of smart lighting called Tradfri, which also includes a smart plug.
Featuring a smarthome wireless hub that connects to the internet, the connected range of bulbs and plugs available in the Tradfri range have two killer features.
Firstly they are cheap
– the plug is just £10 and the bulbs start at even less. There are also wireless dimmers and sensors to complete the system. It’s far and away the cheapest way to get into the smart home world.
The second feature that helps Ikea’s smart home tech stand out is the many ways the system can be controlled.
You can use Ikea’s own hardware switches that come with the system, or the Ikea Home smartphone app, which, crucially, is compatible with all three of the major players in the world of AI voice assistants – yes, you can control the Ikea smarthome system with Alexa, Siri, and the Google Assistant.
Even these products are not Ikea’s first foray into the world of high-tech electronics – as far back as 2012 the company has been incorporating wireless charging capabilities into some of its bedside tables. And just this year a collaboration with high-end speaker-maker Sonos has seen the release of two Ikea-branded wi-fi speakers – Symphonisk. These, sadly, are not smart in the strictest sense (they have no microphones to interact with a voice assistant), but show the direction in which the company is travelling.
And now the whole of the Ikea world is set to be transformed. Block says: “By working together with all other departments within Ikea, the business unit of Ikea Home smart will drive the digital transformation of the Ikea range, improving and transforming existing businesses and developing new businesses to bring more diverse smart products to the many people. We are just getting started.”
So, what’s next? Ikea has already said it’s working on smart blinds – motorised roller blinds that can be controlled by voice, and scheduled to open and close at a time of your choosing. These should be with us by the end of the year.
Beyond that, if what the company is saying now is to be believed, we can expect a rapid expansion in smart tech from the company – and at a price that will make raising the IQ of your home more tempting than ever.
The Tradfri Smart Light Bulb from Ikea
Ikea’s Symfonisk range: A table lamp with wi-fi speaker, right, and a wi-fi bookshelf speaker, left
Bjorn Block, head of the new Ikea Home Smart Business Unit
The Tradfri gateway and app links up Ikea smart home accessories
The Tradfri smart plug