Is the Home Improvement Retailer About to Make Our Homes Smarter?
IKEA: the Swedish home improvement retailer has a plan. It wants to help us make our homes smarter. We are not just talking about neat and tidy (it has always been on board with that) – we mean smarter in a technological sense.
In 2019, the home furnishing giant will introduce two models of blinds that could start to signal something very big. The smart roller blinds are expected to go on sale in German branches first before being introduced to its other outlets across Europe.
But IKEA has already been selling wireless charging lamps (the ones you touch the base in the middle of the night and it simply comes on) and smart light bulbs and now we could see an entire new range of products being launched thanks to the emerging technologies of smart homes.
IKEA promises that any existing or smart household products it brings out will work in tandem with all the latest smart systems: Apple Home Kit, Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Home range of automated platforms.
The question is: how aggressive will this launch into technology and smart products for the home be by IKEA? In the past, it has never been a real big player in the retail trade. It was never required.
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IKEA was always one of those stores that built a name for itself on style and Scandinavian imagery. Its products were unique and although it went successfully online, more people love to physically browse around its department stores because it really does make for a good day out.
Customers have always been attracted to the designs and selling points that already existed within the firm. But now there is a need to jump into the 21st century and start becoming smart, IKEA needs to go into the technological partnerships of other big corporations.
This is not something it does easily. It will have to become aggressive in merger with tech giants like Sony, Xiaomi and Apple. Leveraging technical partnerships with these guys requires IKEA to develop an entirely new department of sales staff and directors to negotiate these deals.
In short, IKEA can make fantastic blinds with a funky design, but making them smart is going to require external assistance. IKEA needs to think outside the box. That in itself is not a problem. The home textiles corporation has been doing that since its launch, but now it needs to get technology to partner its contemporary designs.
There are several categories where smart home textiles and hardware can be applied. Kitchen gadgets are the obvious starting points, home entertainment and even accessories for the garden and patio.
Smart kitchens are about to become really smart and many tech giants like LG, Siemens and Bosch are working overtime to design and manufacture gadgets like beer-making machines, fridge freezers that display recipes on the door.
Consumers can literally talk to the fridge and ask it to recommend a good recipe for left-over lamb or chicken and the door will display fully loaded instructions, images and even video playback on the freezer door panel.
Better still, the panel will be interactive with an ability to pause the playback, save to a shopping list or repeat a set of instructions being recommended.
IKEA absolutely has to think strongly about its partnerships of the future with tech giants. In the past, it had only required dealings and partnerships with small firms that make cloth or material manufacturers. Now it is time to dance in hall of smart. The IKEA model is about to be tested – and it knows it must get smart.