Ikea’s not a tech company, but it sure knows the home.
That’s probably why the flat-pack company Ikea, founded in 1943, calls its smart home initiative “Home smart,” giving the home priority over the technology.
What started as a trickle of smart devices — including tables with integrated Qi chargers and low-priced lights, switches, plugs, and blinds built upon the Zigbee standard — has ballooned into a full-blown business. The Ikea Home smart business unit now sits alongside the company’s more traditional businesses, like Bedroom & Bathroom, Kitchen & Dining, and Ikea Food (aka, meatballs) with investment to match. Ikea’s partnership with Sonos marks the first time the company has ever sold a co-branded product in one of its stores. With 433 stores servicing over 1 billion customers in 2019, let’s just say that Ikea’s impact on the smart home could be significant.
At first, Ikea treated smart home stuff like a hobby — testing the waters with furniture that could wirelessly charge your phone before building an ecosystem of speakers, lights, and blinds with bare-bones functionality. Those successes prompted a decision this summer to promote Home Smart to the same importance as Living Room, Bedroom, and all of the other Ikea businesses that have come to define the company.
The digital transformation of Ikea could improve the lives of billions. At stake is the democratization of the smart home — intelligent homes that improve the daily lives of everyone, not just the resident geeks who can already afford them.