Backstory: we were off in Berlin at IFA, the most important tech event in Europe, as technology parter of Haier Europe to transform the world of connected appliances — we will tell you more about this partnership soon. We tried new products, met people and got a sense of upcoming changes in the smart living space.
We saw nightstands that recharge your smartphone, magic mirrors, AR apps for the perfect cook and a wardrobe–meets–washing machine. Above all, we have singled out some trends that we believe will guide the next market evolution and can change the very house we live in.
“Your home will be smart, and it’s not gonna look different from the one you already have now.”
That’s what exhibitors at IFA seem to tell us. The big asian powerhouses are creating solutions that are both technologically groundbreaking and good-looking, also acquiring experienced handicraft companies. At some point, wandering through the aisles we felt like we were at Milan’s Salone del Mobile. Fascinating shapes and amazingly designed spaces were built in order to showcase technology.
We can trace this trend back to Samsung’s The Frame, a magnificent TV set shaped like a framed painting, released a couple of years ago. Since then, tech has progressively merged into the traditional objects in our home, creating reassuring and comfortable solutions. Let’s say we’re de-technologizing and re-humanizing technology at home.
All of this, of course, also affects the interfaces we are going to interact with in our houses, that are more and more embedded in the objects. Screens tend to disappear and mirrors or wooden boards turns now into interactive surfaces. Pieces of furniture are off to smart, browsable and touchable solutions. User interfaces, which used to be flat, “technical” and cold, embrace more humanist visual languages, with softer edges and slow, calming animations, reflecting the coziness and welcoming feeling of home.
In short, a good-looking and integrated technology, able to transform appliances into hybrid objects that you can proudly display in your kitchen or living room. Nightstands, for instance, develop features such as air purifying and wireless smartphone charging. Another example of this “merging” trend is the Air Dresser by Samsung: a compact wardrobe that easily fits into any sleeping room and can clean and iron clothes with steam, paired with the smartThing app and connected with the rest of the house.
The majority of the companies are developing solutions integrated with Alexa and Amazon’s automated replenishment services (DRS). All smart living features will be available through vocal interaction, including environmental information such as air quality in the room. The focus is actually shifting to the overall atmosphere of the household: an app like Tado, for instance, uses data from sensors to detect changes in the domestic environment in order to reduce indoor pollution.
Technology is hiding behind surfaces: something that hints at a bigger transformation involving social trends, the evolution of our living habits and the world of industrial and interior design. The so-called “smart home” environment is changing, and integration is key in this new context. What’s gonna happen? We will answer soon.
Luca Zanin works in Content and UX Writing dept. in Enhancers, focusing on conversational design and research. Born in Veneto, he’s been living in Jaisalmer, India. He has a master’s degree in Transmedia and Interactive Storytelling from Scuola Holden in Turin.