Ikea is set to expand availability of a smart lighting system called Trådfri (Swedish for “wireless”), which has been available in some parts of Europe since last fall, according to The Verge.
The Trådfri system, which leverages common ZigBee Light Link technology standards for connected light bulbs, relies on an internet gateway device that uses Ethernet connectivity to create a local network of bulbs. Ikea is selling a package that includes the gateway, a remote and two Trådfri bulbs for the Swedish kronor equivalent of about $85.40.
The system also has another component: A motion-controlled dimmer switch that can work with the broader the connected system, or apart from it. The dimmer switch costs less than $21.
Ikea has entered a market for smart home gateways and related products that several other retailers already have joined (Target, for example announced its new smart lamp last month), and that also is being targeted by the likes of Google, Amazon, Intel and others. So Ikea is not the first entrant, but it probably will not be the last, and not much has been decided in this market as of yet. At least Ikea can say it brings Ikea prices and design sensibilities to this market, even if it is a bit of a latecomer.
Ikea's plans for expanding commercial availability of its smart products remain unclear. The products are listed on its website, though its is unclear at this point if Ikea plans to do an big promotions around in-store launches outside of Europe. While Amazon and Google can be aggressive and vocal about promoting smart home products, other retailers may opt to take a more low-key approach until they are sure smart product sales will pay off for them.
As the smart home market matures, the ability of Ikea and other retailers to continue innovating on smart home concepts will be tested by competition. At some point, with everyone offering a gateway or hub and connected lighting systems, players will have to work harder to distinguish themselves.
Some of that already may be happening with Amazon's efforts to have its Alexa virtual assistant incorporated into the smart products of Intel, LG and others. Having a motion-controlled dimmer switch is nifty, but telling Alexa to dim the lights is a notion that probably a lot of people would be pretty comfortable with right now. So, no sooner has Ikea entered the smart home race than it will need to decide if it wants to incorporate innovations like voice controls — and if it does, where it will get the technology it needs to do that.