“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.