When your sofa monitors blood pressure and your kitchen knows the results

Digital living at ZOW 2018

Digitalisation and the Internet of Things (IoT) are ubiquitous. These developments present a variety of new options individually, globally and across all sectors. ZOW 2018 is a visionary workshop and innovation event designed to showcase interactions, sensor systems and features of particular interest to the furniture industry and those that are already being tested.

Homes and interior fixtures of the future will be smart and capable of independent thought and understanding. Consumers listen to these terms being used with a mixture of curiosity and concern. What can we expect in the future? What can be achieved in the field of home living and furnishings by state-of-the-art engineering technology? And where do the boundaries lie – technically and ethically?

Digital homes and interiors

Whether intelligent smartphones, highly equipped vehicles or the first care robots, miniaturisation and digitalisation are bringing what was once unimaginable within our grasp. But when it comes to our homes, it seems ambitious visions for the digital future have only been around for a few years. Apart from initial concepts such as smart homes at imm cologne, even open-minded consumers are largely still living analogue home lives.

This may have something to do with trends such as cocooning, retreating within your own four walls, or with unresolved safety concerns. Consumer behaviour is also changing more quickly than parts of the furniture and interiors sector are aware. Does this mean that the future target group of digital natives may be slipping through the industry’s fingers? And is it even failing to capitalise on retirees, who are often not without means, because their domestic needs (think lifelong independent living) have until now seldom been met?

Maintaining and developing innovation leadership in Germany

Digitalisation and the IoT have long been burning issues for the supply side of the home living and interiors value chain, above all major hardware manufacturers, and for suppliers of home appliances. They are developing and conducting research into accepted solutions for future living at “KogniHome” – a model project based at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. And it’s not just about technology, as Ralf Müterthies, Head of Concept Management at the Hettich company knows: “When it comes to digitalisation and furnishings, it’s more than just the pure electrification of components. Only when the desired function intuitively supports the user’s operation without him having to press a complicated array of switches, buttons or other controls – that is to say, when furniture ‘thinks’ in an interconnected fashion – will there be a real surge in digitalisation and an increase in acceptance by users.”

Suppliers are catching up: the future starts at ZOW

All signs indicate that today’s free-standing items of case, or storage, furniture in kitchens and bathrooms are becoming highly sought-after lifestyle objects in living rooms and bedrooms. Buyers of home furnishings do not wish for anything more – in the future, retailers will no longer attract them with discounts. For this reason, the special “Digitalisation” area at the upcoming ZOW will offer unusual ideas, prototypes and initial ideas for workable solutions.

Over an area of around 200 m² (stand D001), trade visitors and curious exhibitors will find intelligent development concepts at numerous presentation islands. In its role as a trend scout, the biannual ZOW is thus specifically screening and monitoring future markets for the furniture industry and interior design world, while the leading international trade fair interzum, which will be held every other year, will showcase the current, market-ready applications with respect to products.