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The Furniture Industry Headed For Disruption

February 9th, 2017

Mehdi Mezni

Suggested Thumbnail: Pixabay, authorized for commercial use, no attribution required

Technology continues to transform every aspect of human life. It’s actually quite simple: we expect better convenience. Technology helps to provide it. We consume technology everywhere we go then take it home with us, where it is transforming every bit of it. Our kitchens are becoming connected, our TVs are as “smart” as our laptops, and our couches know more about us than we might think. The spaces in which we eat, sleep, work, and breath are making place for more digital tools and a greater connectivity.

In fact, the furniture industry is undergoing a major disruption fueled by technology. This article tries to break down some of the drivers of this digital disruption. It tries to uncover some facts in a world full of promises. For the future is closer than we think.

The Arena: Smartphone, Mobile Apps, You Name It!

When technology becomes mobile, it usually acquires an impressively far-reaching potential. One that transcends the limits of its initial design. Take mobile phones for instance, they were simply designed to make phone callson the go.

Now, it’s a great arena for innovation. Apps available for download encompass online shopping platforms, virtual fitness coaches, smart shopping buddies, to name a few. In the same fashion, smartphones are paramount to the up and coming furniture experience.

Naturally, browsing a furniture showroom has long been an integral aspect of the traditional furniture-buying experience. Today, mobile technology is completely disrupting this aspect.

Source: Pixabay, authorized for commercial use, no a ttribution required

For example, there is  Roomle  a mobile app that allows users to design their own living space, fit in furniture from online catalogues, and even shop from the nearest retailers. It harnesses the capabilities of 3D, AR & VR technologies, all in an ergonomic, simple and intuitive app in the shopper’s smartphone.

A number of other “Virtual Showroom” apps allow customers to browse furniture retailers’ products conveniently from their mobile devices like “Augmented Furniture” and “VR Showroom”.

One of the most successful solutions out there is Bernhardt’s. The North Carolina based company collaborated with Tech Giant IBM’s jStart team to deploy a tailor-made virtual showroom app. It is proposing an unprecedented wealth of product data and analytics tools at sales representatives’ fingertips.

Here’s how! ( Link to video ).

Such a futuristic dimension to the customer experience is made possible through AR & VR. These terms are usually employed interchangeably, so let’s break them down to details.

Augmented & Virtual Reality – The Virtual Showroom Case



Source: Pixabay, authorized for commercial use, no attribution required

AR or Augmented Reality holds the keys to a whole new world of possibilities for shoppers. While the possibility to browse furniture online or using their smartphones brings convenience to the furniture shopping experience, AR & VR add the missing “third-dimension” to website images and mobile app description.

To clear the confusion between both, Virtual reality offers a digital recreation of a real life setting, while augmented reality delivers virtual elements as an overlay to the real world.

In fact, both VR and AR are increasingly surpassing the showroom experience, allowing consumers to instantly visualize how a new product will fit into their home space. It’s only disruption because all the effort and time traditionally allocated to finding the “couch that fits like a glove” will now be directed exclusively towards enhancing the experience as a whole.

It’s similar to how DNA changed the course of forensics in the US. The VR app, just like DNA, doesn’t lie, and doesn’t rely on intuition. It’s solid proof, not circumstantial evidence!

Although this technology is still in the early stages of development, it allows shoppers to upload images of their homes and decorate them with virtual furniture.

AR app developed by Austrian startup Roomle – Source: Roomle webpage

As this technology becomes more advanced, it could allow furniture companies to play a more significant role in the overall interior design process.

Internet of Things, Connected “Things”

In this new Internet, “things” are interconnected and linked to computer systems—and each other—by embedded sensors.

The term is usually encountered when talking about “smart cities”, “smart homes, and “smart factories”. But it also relates to “smart” things, especially furniture.

This new field is still in its infancy but started to knock on the furniture industry doors. The idea is to introduce beds, desks, chairs even kitchen surfaces that are smart enough to connect to the Internet, and optimize their functioning cycles.

Think of it as a bed that registers our sleep quality and looks for a better setting, a better sleeping experience. Such bed, typically connected to the Internet, has the ability to gather and analyze specific data in a similar fashion to your Fitbit or Garmin. It uses biometric sensors to track numerous metrics that include heart rate, breathing rate, and restfulness.

Source: Pixabay, authorized for commercial use, no attribution required

In a recent partnership between SK Telecom and Hyundai introduces Smart Furniture, a line of dressers, cabinets, and refrigerators with embedded touch screens that interact with homeowners.

They allow you to make a phone call, connect to your social media and fetch the fanciest recipe from Nifty, while you’re getting dressed for your morning meeting.

Leaving the kitchen and going into the living room, Lift-Bit’s smart sofa is equipped with mechanized modular pieces that can shift to offer adaptive seating arrangements.

Pilot plans revealed by IKEA at Milan Design Week hint at a future in which a kitchen table can choose to automatically warm your plate using a combination of smart cameras and embedded induction rings.

The manufacturing process certainly needs to adjust to such design. Here also, technology and human ingenuity drive the shift towards disruption. We will find out more about this in our next article.


Tags:Furniture, Smartphone, Technology, AR, VR, IoT

Copyright: I, Mehdi Mezni, release the materials herewith, including graphics for commercial use (pending payment).

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