There’s lots to love about smart home technology. It can make daily tasks easier and more efficient, and it’s more than a little fun to bark orders to the systems in your home.
Unfortunately, smart tech can also be frustrating, confusing, and a huge pain to get up and running.
That’s where Ikea can do things differently.
Last fall, Ikea launched its first smart home products: a line of smart lighting called ‘Trådfri’, including light bulbs, motion sensors, and illuminated doors that can be switched on and off with the click of a remote. Now, it plans to bring them up to speed with systems like Google Voice, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit.
Ikea is far from the first company to venture into the world of smart lighting, but its refreshingly simple attitude has the potential to launch the struggling smart home market into the mainstream. Here’s why.
Why Smart Home Devices Are Still a Niche
The term ‘smart home device’ is a broad category that has grown to encompass hundreds of products. If it’s a standalone object that connects to the internet, and you can control or monitor it remotely, it probably counts as a ‘smart’ device.
Today, the market includes devices to control security and access to a home, lighting, HVAC systems, and kitchen appliances. Personal home assistants, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, are increasingly adopted as the main hub for the device ecosystem.
So, why hasn’t it hit the mainstream? To start, smart home devices are pricey, especially considering their often-limited use and long replacement cycles. While some proport to save homeowners money over time, like smart thermostats that control and monitor energy use, the upfront cost turns off many ordinary consumers.
But the biggest issue is how fragmented the smart home ‘ecosystem’ has become. There are so many different networks, standards, and devices being used to connect the home that consumers have a hard time deciding which, if any, they should buy.
Setting up and controlling multiple devices is confusing, as many systems are incompatible.
This frustration, along with the cost, has smart home devices stuck in the place between the early adopter and mass market phases. People are buying them – in 2016, there were 80 million smart devices in homes around the world, a 64% increase from 2015 – but it hasn’t hit the point where ordinary homeowners are interested.
A Simple Approach to Smart Homes
A recent article from Wired magazine makes that case that Ikea is in the best position to bring smart home devices to the mass market. How? By retrofitting its approach to the furniture industry to incorporate smart tech.
Ikea is the largest retailer in the world, with 400 stores worldwide and over 900 million customers each year. It owes its success to its simplicity: it sells minimalist, low-cost furniture that is easy to assemble and compatible with décor and furniture from other retailers.
Customers can easily integrate Ikea’s products with the things they already have in their homes. That, along with some savvy marketing, has made Ikea a retail powerhouse.
So far, it’s taking the same approach to smart homes. Ikea entered the market with something simple and familiar: lighting, which is already the largest segment of the smart home market. Its line of light bulbs and motion sensors are simple, cheap, and easy to set up.
That approach is what sets Ikea apart from its competitors in the crowded smart tech market. It’s making smart tech for non-techies, the same way it makes furniture non-handymen can assemble.
Trådfri is a promising start. We’ll see if it can win over the hearts of DIY designers the same as Billy, Malm and Ren.