REHAU makes furniture smart and responsive
When REHAU’s technology experts got together to discuss their bold ambitions for the future of the company, they started debating why furniture is often static and incapable of responding to the preferences of different users. For instance, why are most desks installed to a standard, fixed height above the floor and why are most light switches set into the wall when they could be closer to hand.
The conversation sparked a lively debate between traditionalists who love the simplicity of conventional furniture design and those who felt frustrated that more innovative solutions were not yet available on the market. But the one thing they could all agree on is that customers deserve more choice and that REHAU had the knowledge and expertise to help.
Specialists from the Furniture Solutions (FS) group worked with technology platform “Electronics into Polymers” to explore innovative ways of making furniture more interactive and useful.
“Plastic and electronics go together well, as polymers do not insulate. A smartphone with an all-metal case wouldn’t work because no signal would get through,” explains Dr. Ansgar Niehoff, Head of Technology Platform “Electronics into Polymers”.
The staff of the advanced technologies area were looking in depth at furniture applications as early as 2015 and approached various REHAU divisions with application examples and demonstrations. “We were immediately excited by the potential for smarter furniture solutions,” says Thorsten Zwenzner, Head of Product Management Office Furniture Systems.
A new brand, SMART SENSE, was born to identify clever touch-sensitive polymer profiles that could transform furniture into a user interface.
Together with electronic and office furniture manufacturer König + Neurath, SMART SENSE was initially developed for use in conference and meeting rooms. With the “endless touch” feature, for example, the height of a meeting table can be adjusted from any position.
The product was an immediate hit at trade show where visitors showed great interest in broader applications. Premium kitchen manufacturer Ballerina saw the potential and started exploring how SMART SENSE could be integrated into kitchens and used as a control centre.
As with so many innovations at REHAU, the real driver of the success that SMART SENSE now enjoys was the intense collaboration between divisional teams and external partners. Today, the race is on to develop further imaginative electrical applications for touch-sensitive polymers.
Watch our introduction to intelligent home furnishings
“SMART SENSE is just the beginning. We want to power up our polymers with additional functional uses to create real added value for our customers. The opportunities for radical innovation in medical care are particularly interesting. With an aging population and increased professionalization in the home care sector, we believe REHAU can transform the quality of life for so many in society.”
Head of Product Management, Office Furniture System