‘Just getting started’: Ikea bets big on the digital home

Sweden's IKEA is doubling down its bet on the digital home, launching a new Smart Home business unit, and investing "significantly" to "fast-forward development".

'Just getting started': Ikea bets big on the digital home
The Symfonisk range, a table lamp speaker and a book-shelf speaker_2 DOWNLOAD View Add to Media Cart SYMFONISK range, table lamp speaker and book-shelf speaker. Photo: Ikea
“We need to explore products and solutions beyond conventional home furnishing,” Björn Block, who will lead the new business unit, said in a press release
“The business unit of IKEA Home smart will drive the digital transformation of the IKEA range,” he added. “We're just getting started.” 
Björn Block is the Ikea executive who will lead the new business unit. Photo: Ikea
When Lena Herder, Ikea's new country head for Sweden, announced plans to cut 650 jobs in Sweden last November, she predicted that new jobs would eventually be created in the company's digital and logistics arms.
But the company did not say in the press release how many, if any, new staff it planned to hire in key offices in Älmhult, Helsingborg and Malmö. 
Ikea has been testing digital home ideas since launching Ikea Home Smart back in 2012, and has already launched tables and lamps that can wirelessly charge phones, the Home Smart lighting app, and home audio in partnership with Sonos. 
Ikea's Trådfri gateway, which can be used to control lights and music across the home. Photo: Ikea
But Peter van der Poel, Ikea's manager of Range & Supply, said the aim was now to significantly expand the offering, with a whole new division launched analogous to the children's section selling play furniture, cots, and the Antilop stool. 
“This is the biggest new business we are establishing since the introduction of Children’s IKEA,” he said. “We have decided to invest significantly in Home Smart across Ikea to fast-forward the development.”
Up until now Ikea has been open to partnering with all the tech giants, linking its Trådfri system with Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa, rather than trying to create its own voice-activated system. 
The US market intelligence firm IDC expects global sales of smart home devices to more than double over the next five years from $830m to $1.6bn. 

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Danish Ikea store shelters staff and customers overnight during snowstorm

Heavy snowfall left 31 people looking for a spare cushion at the Aalborg branch of Ikea on Wednesday as they were forced to spend the night at the store.

A file photo at Ikea in Aalborg, where 31 people stayed overnight during a snowstorm on December 1st 2021.
A file photo at Ikea in Aalborg, where 31 people stayed overnight during a snowstorm on December 1st 2021. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Anyone who has found themselves wandering the mazy aisles of an Ikea might be able to empathise with the sense of being lost in the furniture store for a seemingly indefinite time.

Such a feeling was probably more real than usual for six customers and 25 staff members who were forced to spend the night at the furniture giant’s Aalborg branch after being snowed in.

Heavy snow in North Jutland brought traffic to a standstill and halted public transport in parts of the region on Wednesday afternoon, resulting in a snow-in at Ikea.

“This is certainly a new situation for us,” Ikea Aalborg store manager Peter Elmose told local media Nordjyske, which first reported the story.

“It’s certainly not how I thought my day would end when I drove to work this morning,” Elmose added.

The 31 people gathered in the store’s restaurant area and planned to see Christmas television and football to pass the evening, the store’s manager reported to Nordjyske.

“Our kitchen staff have made sure there is hot chocolate, risalamande, pastries, soft drinks, coffee and the odd beer for us in light of the occasion. So we’ll be able to keep warm,” he said.

“We couldn’t just send them outside and lock the door behind them at our 8pm closing time. Absolutely not. So of course they’ll be staying here,” he added.

The temporary guests were given lodging in different departments of the store in view of the Covid-19 situation, Nordjyske writes.

“For us , the most important thing was to take care of each other and that everyone feels safe,” Elmose said.

At least Ikea’s stranded customers and staff had somewhere comfortable to lay their heads.

The same can unlikely be said for around 300 passengers at the city’s airport who had to stay overnight at the terminal.

The airport was forced to stop flights from 2:30pm yesterday amid worsening weather, which also prevented buses from transferring passengers to hotels.

“We have around 300 people in the terminal right now and have been giving out blankets on the assumption they will be staying here tonight,” Aalborg Airport operations manager Kim Bermann told Nordjyske.

READ ALSO: Ikea reopens in Denmark after country’s worst retail month this century