Smart furniture: How technology is redefining ‘home’ – CTV News

A desk that descends from the ceiling with the push of a button. Side tables with built-in air purifiers. Mattresses that are capable of tracking sleep patterns and allow users to customize firmness levels.

These are just a few examples of smart furniture, with built-in technology not found in the average table, desk, bed or chair. Equipped with sensors and intelligent systems, smart furniture can be controlled and adjusted according to personal preferences.

The smart furniture industry is a relatively new one, said Marc Saltzman, a freelance technology journalist and author. While he predicts the industry will continue to grow, Saltzman said he is unsure yet whether smart furniture sales are part of a larger consumer trend.

“I don’t know if smart furniture is going to play a significant role [in the market] until we see what it truly offers,” Saltzman told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on June 12. “I would say that there isn’t a lot of smart furniture [on the market] yet.”

Smart furniture technology is an extension of the smart home trend that has become especially popular over the last couple of years, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saltzman said.

Based on data compiled by the International Data Corporation, the global market for smart home devices increased by 11.7 per cent in 2021 compared to the year before. The company’s Worldwide Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker shows there were more than 895 million smart home devices shipped around the world in 2021 alone.

“Because of the pandemic, people were spending more time at home so they were investing a little bit more in their home, and they clearly see the benefits of smart technology,” said Saltzman.

THE FUTURE OF SMART HOME PRODUCTS

Smart furniture are particularly useful for those who want more versatility within their living spaces, said Man Leung, marketing manager with Gryphon Development. The Vancouver-based company is leading a project called Gryphon Nova, which involves the use of smart furniture and other technological features to help users multi-task and save time, he said.

“We’re looking at the spaces that residents spend a lot [of time in] like living room and bedrooms, and we’re always thinking of how to creatively utilize this space and offer more flexibility to the residents,” Leung told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview on June 8.

The company’s smart furniture system involves the use of a retractable queen-sized bed, desk and storage container that can each descend from the ceiling with the push of a button through a smartphone app. When the furniture is not needed, it’s possible to raise them back into the ceiling and use the empty space for something else, such as exercising.

Pictured here is a retractable queen-sized bed and desk manufactured by Gryphon Development, one of several pieces of smart furniture included in its Gryphon Nova project. (Gryphon Development)

The idea behind the project is to offer a more holistic form of technologically advanced living that better reflects the definition of “home” today, Leung said. Stay-at-home measures previously put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it more important for families to have space to both live and work while at home. This can be done by making rooms more adaptable to different needs, Leung said, such as designing a bedroom that can double into a place to workout, or an office space that can serve as a place to eat.

“People are looking for a space that could satisfy their different needs in daily life,” Leung said. “There’s so much more they want to be done in their homes now… The definition of home has been elevated to a different level.”

As of now, only 43 units of the company’s smart furniture system constructed by Gryphon Development will be available, ranging from about $785,000 to $2.175 million in price. The company has already signed contracts with several clients and the project is expected to be completed by 2025. In addition to smart furniture, these units will be equipped with a number of other features, such as a built-in water filtration system and a shelf that uses UV light to sanitize devices such as phones, wallets and keys. Leung said there’s been a significant amount of interest in home automation and he sees the use of smart furniture becoming more common in the future.

“This holistic lifestyle is definitely one thing that potential homebuyers will be interested to look at,” he said.

A retractable storage unit manufactured by Gryphon Development is seen here. This is one of several pieces of smart furniture included in the company’s Gryphon Nova project. (Gryphon Development)

Aside from the smart furniture systems produced by Gryphon Development, individual pieces of smart furniture can also be purchased at several stores, including Best Buy and Ikea.

Ikea first developed smart home products in 2015 with the manufacturing of wireless charging furniture, according to Mathias Karlsson, the director of Ikea Canada’s home smart initiative. This project involves the use of an app to control a wide range of Ikea products, allowing users to raise blinds, or turn lights on and off. The company’s collection of smart home furniture now includes speakers that can also serve as shelves, and tables that include air purifiers.

“Altogether, incorporating home smart products in your space is simply about living more efficiently and being more connected with our spaces,” reads a statement from Karlsson sent to CTVNews.ca on June 13. “Marrying technology with home furnishing results in products that save space and blend into people’s homes, making your life at home a little easier, more efficient, and more comfortable.”

According to Karlsson, Ikea has seen growing interest in its home smart range over the last two years. Within the next five years, the company expects the smart furniture market to double.

Pictured here is Ikea’s STARKVIND table with a built-in air purifier. This is one of several products in the company’s collection of smart products. (IKEA, IKEA.ca)

CONSUMER ADVICE

Looking at initiatives such as Gryphon Nova, Saltzman said these types of projects may be particularly useful for those with limited space at home.

“That’s smart for smaller living spaces in say, condos in the GTA,” Saltzman said. “It sounds like it could be a clever use of your space.”

Still, consumers should be mindful that these are newer technologies and may likely involve more maintenance than a regular piece of furniture, he said. Additionally, those who are aiming to be early adopters of newer technologies are likely going to pay a premium, he said.

“There’s always going to be a market for early adopters, just know that you’ll tend to pay more and … it may not be as smooth of an experience compared to some tech that’s been around for several years,” Saltzman said. “They often iron out the bugs, so to speak.”

When navigating the smart furniture space, Saltzman said consumers should start by weighing the pros and cons of smart versus non-smart furniture. This involves comparing prices to determine if any additional costs are worth the extra money. Saltzman also advises consumers to compare smart furniture across different brands to search for the best price possible.

“Having a choice is always ideal. So look for [and] research competitors as well as read reviews, not just from tech reviewers, but also from previous customers,” he said.

Saltzman also recommends that consumers reach out to companies with any questions they may have, and really consider the benefits associated with smart furniture before making a purchase. Some of the key advantages of smart furniture and smart home technology boil down to what he calls the four C’s – cost, convenience, control and connection.

Smart thermostats, for example, can be used to closely regulate temperatures inside a home, and can be conveniently controlled using a smartphone. Data has also shown that smart thermometers can save on both heating consumption and cooling usage, which can translate to savings on an electricity bill.

“Just because it takes electricity, doesn’t mean it’s smart – it has to do something that is unique,” Saltzman said. “What does a smart bed do that my existing bed does not?

“There has to be a clear value proposition.”