The refrigerator informs the supermarket what is needed. Light and heating are controlled automatically depending on the time of day or temperature. As if by magic, tables and couches adjust to suit your needs. What was material for science-fiction films up to a short while ago, is reality and future of the furniture industry today. The process is called "Smart Home", with which information technology moves in with devices and furniture - and in this way ensures more comfort.
For a few years already, the "Smart Home" special exhibition belongs to one of the major attractions of the imm cologne furniture trade fair. During interzum, the leading trade fair for furniture production and interior design, which took place in Cologne in May, the field demonstrated how the new technologies affect the design of living spaces, and how interior design reacts. Whilst the specialist trade fair interzum displayed individual solutions for furniture and living in the future, the imm cologne special exhibition offers a unique presentation year after year: The visitor enters a "house" - and is guided through the various living areas from garage and kitchen to bedroom. Here, different companies present their interconnected solutions, which are not stand-alone but which communicate with each other: When the occupant opens the front door by means of an RFID chip, the alarm system is switched off automatically. The lighting in the entrance area ensures a well-lit welcome. In the living area, the TV set automatically switches to the entrance camera when the bell rings at the front door. In the kitchen, the hob reduces the temperature automatically, when the pasta water is about to boil over. These are only some examples which could be seen during imm cologne in January.
The list of the digital assistants in daily life, which exists already, is long - and refers to all fields of the furniture and appliance industry. The common features - digital technology makes life easier and nicer. According to the Universal Design, it helps to create the same comfort for all - independent of age, place of residence or individual abilities. And, smart furniture is by no means nice gimmicks: Sensors in mattresses in children's beds, for example, can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. The so-called "Ambient Assisted Living" helps elderly or dependent persons to lead a self-determined life by assistance provided by assistance systems. And, energy use will become more and more efficient: The roller shutters move down in summer automatically when the inhabitants are away and thus ensure cool rooms. In winter the roller shutters move up when the sun shines - so that the rooms can take in the natural warmth, and heating costs can be saved.
The acceptance of smart technology at home and in the office is correspondingly high - and cross-generational: According to the study of the international market research institute YouGov, 75 percent of the Y generation wants to fit their home with intelligent technology. A survey of Feierabend.de, however, has set sight on best-agers: The 60plus generation is also convinced of the fact that smart home solutions will improve the quality of life and will enable a long self-determined living at home.
Apart from data security, the challenge for the branch is the necessity of cooperation: Really intelligent solutions are no products of lone warriors. Technologies of house and appliance automation, the interconnected consumer electronics and information technology merge to provide intelligent solutions. Generally accepted standards have to be set up. And, of course, the core competencies of the furniture branch and their suppliers - materials, functions, design - are required. Impulses may come from all sides.
A good example for successful cooperation has been shown recently only at interzum 2017: A height-adjustable conference table, with which ergonomics finds an in-way to meeting culture. The idea came up during an innovations workshop, which the polymer specialist REHAU and the furniture manufacturer König + Neurath organize in regular intervals. Together a product has been created, which provides its users with a real advantage: Instead of a conventional switch, the height is regulated by a revolving profile underneath the edge of the table. The table can be moved up or down from every position, which is useful when several people use a table for working. The work position can be adjusted quickly and easily without having to interrupt the workflow.
Whether at the office, in the bedroom or in the kitchen - the smart revolution will continue. In a few years time, a lot of housework will be done by itself. Based on the contents, the refrigerator will provide recipe suggestions or will call the delivery service right away. The TV program will be arranged basing on the mood you are in. The presentation during a business meeting will be displayed three-dimensionally as a hologram in the middle of the room. More comfort for people, new sales opportunities for companies - the future of living and working in the digital age has only just begun.