Consumers and small businesses are adding all types of innovative IoT devices to make their environments more comfortable, convenient, energy efficient and less expensive. There are smart thermostats, power switches, power outlets, energy-generating solar window sills, multi-room audio/video, automated fans, air conditioners, locks, doorbells and garage door openers. Home surveillance systems capture everything outside from the curb to the front door along with indoor activities of the nanny, the kids and the pets. Office cameras can detect intruders and theft and make customers feel safer. Smart sensors monitor water, air, smoke, fog and other environmental conditions.
These various smart home technologies are poised for mass-market growth, as automation becomes the norm. Berg Insight predicts that there will be 73 million smart homes in North America by 2021. And the market will be valued at $138 billion by 2023—a compound annual growth of nearly 14 percent from 2017, according to Markets and Markets.
Going Big with Micro Living
Next up: smart furniture, as robotics-maker Ori in Cambridge, MA, is going big with its home automation technology. A spin-off from MIT Media Lab, Ori has developed voice-controlled furniture that moves about the room, rearranging itself to maximize the living and sleeping spaces in small apartments and condos.
Ori has built a wall-sized, software-controlled robotic furniture case that includes a bed, nightstand, closet and storage shelves on one side and a combination TV stand, bookcase and fold-out work desk on the other side. The system is about 8 feet tall and costs approximately $10,000.
While Ori currently sells its robo-furniture module and software to large-scale urban housing developers, it intends to eventually target individuals who dwell in small spaces. The company is piloting its connected furniture system in 10 cities across the United States and in Canada. Ori’s first intelligent furniture system will have an initial production run of 1,200 units, according to the company.
The modules have already been installed in dozens of luxury apartment buildings around the country, including the 495-square foot luxury studios in the Channel Mission Bay development in San Francisco.
“We are bringing the world of robotics and technology into architecture and real estate, making systems that can make a space feel much bigger,” said Ori CEO and Founder Hasier Larrea in a recent interview with CTV News. Larrea says his company set out to extend the convenience of connected smart devices, such as smart speakers, light bulbs, thermostats, doorbells and garage door openers to larger furniture. He added in the interview, that “when you look at the smart home, it’s all based on peripherals. We’ve been forgetting about 90 percent of the space.”
If a user sets Ori to “bed mode,” the modular system can transform a living room into a bedroom in less than 30 seconds, gliding on wheels over the floor as a queen-size bed that was tucked underneath the module appears. At the same time, the TV stand/entertainment unit side rolls into the living room. When going into living room mode, the Ori rolls the other way, but it can also leave enough space to allow access to the closet and other storage areas.
The unit can be controlled multiple ways. It can move using a side-mounted Ori touch controller, or with a mobile phone app, or by voice commands using an Amazon Echo. The Ori—named partly for the Japanese art of origami paper folding—can also be programmed to transform rooms automatically at certain times, such as bedtime.
Join the Smart Furniture Movement