How Ikea is bringing the smart home to the masses

We’re on the cusp of remotely controlling every aspect of our homes – from heating and lighting down to putting the kettle on for a cuppa. Ikea is chasing that dream with its Home Smart initiative, which is proving that connected devices should put people, not technology, first

If technology wasn’t ever-present enough in our lives, it’s now coming for our homes, with a wave of smart devices that promise to pander to our laziness. Bluetooth speakers, remote-controlled blinds, thermostats that can be adjusted without leaving the sofa, and of course the invisible presence of Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, are all becoming normal parts of people’s lives. But while we might have sci-fi-style visions of our houses and apartments taking on a life of their own, the smart home still has a way to go.

“We’re not there yet with talking fridges,” says Rebecca Töreman, Development Leader at Ikea’s Home Smart initiative, which has overseen the launch of smart bulbs, Bluetooth speakers, and furniture with integrated wireless charging. “We think the smart home is not affordable enough, simple enough to understand, or compatible enough. Ikea Home Smart comes from the same ambition as Ikea, with the vision of creating a better everyday life for the many people – especially people that don’t have so much money.”

With companies in an arms race to hook up every aspect of our lives to the internet of things, there’s often the sense that people’s real needs are being overlooked. While we might appreciate the ability to turn our heating on before we get home, do we really need to be able to boil our kettle remotely? Will we eventually have an app on our phone for every appliance in the house?