This year at the International Home + Housewares Show, attendees can expect to see a new focus on connected home devices and the concept of smart home in the form of educational content and a dedicated smart home pavilion.
In an effort to showcase not only what’s happening now in the space but also what’s possible next, the IHA tapped two infuencers in the technology industry, Carley Knobloch and Mike Wolf, for their expertise in preparing the space.
Knobloch is a digital lifestyle expert and a regular contributor on the Today Show and CNN. She’s also a technology consultant and host for the HGTV Smart Home. Wolf has become a leading authority on the smart kitchen and is the founder of the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle, Washington.
HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® sat down with Knobloch and Wolf to discuss the growth of smart home within the housewares industry, trends and what show attendees can expect to take away from the space.
HomeWorld Business: What do you think the IHA’s focus on smart home at this year’s show says about the growth of these technologies within the housewares industry?
Carley Knobloch: It simply says that it’s not a fad, it’s not a passing phase and it’s not a marketing gimmick. There are enough compelling stories in this space and enough consumer demand. I think it’s a smart organization that is really taking a good look at this and not just putting their head in the sand. They’re really tackling this and it’s really something to give retailers to think about.
Mike Wolf: That it’s moving beyond this early adopter phase into more of a mass market. I think the housewares and small appliance industry is a big part of that. If you’re a retailer, having those conversations with your suppliers of appliances are definitely conversations that you should be having, and I think that the Housewares Show could be a good source of education about that going forward.
HWB: What were some of the efforts you undertook in helping the IHA develop smart home at the show?
Wolf: It was figuring out what the important themes would be to discuss at this point in time to really help set up attendees for the year, whether that’s housewares retailers or manufacturers. To help them really identify some of the things that they should think about.
Knobloch: And develop relationships with the different brands that are building exciting things in that space, so we could put this little environment together and really tell a cool story about what’s possible and what’s happening and what’s about to happen in the world of connected devices. It took us this first year to find a way to develop the overall story that we want people to come away with when they’re at the show.
HWB: What is that overall story you want attendees to come away with?
Knobloch: I think it’s about this evolving space that we’re in. It’s early in the connected home, connected device space and it’s sort of like the wild west— there’s a lot of innovation, a lot of different systems that don’t really work well together, it’s kind of chaotic— but how can we pull together a story about what’s possible? So, while there’s a lot of innovation in the space and that’s exciting, we’re really looking at apps that are solving real problems that real people have. And, from a retail perspective, products that would really be at home on a shelf next to all of the traditional products.
HWB: What are some major smart home trends that will be showcased at the smart home pavilion?
Knobloch: I think kitchen is a huge trend. Some pretty heavy hitters are looking at the kitchen as sort of the next frontier of what is possible. Developing a food OS so to speak. It’s pretty lofty but it’s pretty exciting. It trickles all the way down to some of the smart devices we’re going to have in the pavilion that are really trying to tackle this idea that people want to enjoy home cooked meals but they kind of want a robot to help them make it happen.
HWB: What are some of the topics surrounding smart home you expect to discuss at the show?
Wolf: There are a number of long term evolutionary changes around technology that are important. Over the past couple of years a lot of the momentum has been behind things like Alexa, voice and natural language user interfaces. Those types of technologies have strong implications for what the actual products will eventually look like and how they may work together. When you start to change the product it also starts to create opportunities for appliance makers as well as retail partners for different business models. Things like sharing economy and access of service are starting to come to the world of small and big home appliances. Also, how retail is changing in the face of new technologies and some of the new emerging retailers who are leaning towards more experiential types of approaches versus just lining up shelves of products.