Why IKEA Is Devoting Itself to the Smart Home

How the Swedish company wants to use technology to make homes more efficient

IKEA Sonos Symfonisk
IKEA and Sonos collaborate on these bookshelf and lamp speakers

You’d be forgiven if the first things you think of when you think of IKEA are meatballs and shelving units. But in recent years, the company has leaned heavily into smart home concepts, and in a lengthy new piece for The Verge, writer Thomas Ricker travels to Sweden to profile Björn Block, the head of IKEA’s Home Smart department and his impact on the future of the company.

For starters, Block emphasizes that the company sees the smart technology as a way of improving the home, not simply trotting out gadgets — hence the “Home Smart” name rather than the more conventional “smart home.”

“It means the life at home is more important than technology,” Block told The Verge. “The technology is a tool to make things work, but we’re not launching things just because it’s cool technology.”

“We want you to experience sound rather than the speaker — experience charging rather than a gadget sitting on the bedside table,” he added.

The piece chronicles IKEA’s partnership with Sonos for the 2019 launch of two speakers: a $99 shelf and a $179 lamp, both co-branded with both companies’ logos. They reportedly sold more than 30,000 Symfonisk speakers on the very first day the product went on sale in August.

Perhaps that’s why the company is eager to focus on the department, making it one of its 10 strategic Business Areas. “Home Smart is now a strategic Business Area in the company, one of 10, with Block in charge,” Ricker writes. “He now has significant resources at his disposal, allowing him to staff up and expand rapidly. It’s a big deal to be named a Business Area at Ikea; others include stalwarts like Living Room, Bedroom, and Textiles. The last time Ikea expanded like this was with Ikea Food in 2006. It only happens about once a decade.”

Now that the department’s got an array of products under its belt, Block says the possibilities are endless. “Now we can step into any product area because once you have this ecosystem,” he said. “Once we started building these capabilities, then there are no limitations for where we can go.”

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