Ikea and Sonos are partnering to combine the former's home furnishings expertise with the latter's knowledge of sound design for the home, with the intent to develop new smart home solutions, according to an Ikea press release.
The collaboration was described by Ikea as the next step in its Ikea Home Smart effort. The retailer's previous developments under this initiative included the 2015 rollout of wireless charging products for mobile phones and last year's release of smart lighting products.
Products and other solutions resulting from the partnership will debut in stores sometime in 2019, the company said.
A partnership with one of the most prominent names in speakers and sound design is not the first thing that came to mind when Ikea recently acknowledged it was moving its operations into a new phase with a more digital focus.
However, it does fit the bill for a company trying on new endeavors, as well as one that tends to explore new technology concepts like artificial intelligence before deciding what to do with that technology. Ikea and Sonos are not saying much right now about their collaboration, though the effort does appear to line up well with Ikea's recent moves into the smart home furniture space, notably the Swedish retailer's smart lighting and wireless charging products.
After announcing the smart lighting line-up in early 2017, Ikea later in the year announced it was integrating with voice-activated virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control of the system. The companies share that interest in conversational commerce, with Sonos making the move early on to work with Alexa, and planning to work with Google Assistant in the future.
Ikea said in its press release that the new partners want to "democratise music and sound in the home, and we want to create products designed for how people listen together at home," which isn't much to go on.
While it's not exactly clear what these two companies have in the works, it seems likely to involve voice-controlled multi-room sound systems, perhaps coordinated with other smart home elements and functions. Based on Ikea's recent efforts, we could even see voice-controlled speakers integrated with some of the retailer's furnishings — a potentially big step towards making voice-assistants more ubiquitous in the home.