Manufacturers of intelligent motion components and mechanisms balance convenience, function

HIGHLIGHT – Smart motion seating suppliers look to 2022 with a keen eye on the user-furniture interface, as changes in components and accessories reinvent the way consumers interact with home furnishings. the House.

Raffel Systems, a developer of electronic controls for the seating, bedding and industrial market, predicts that the user experience will continue to be a focal point for component manufacturers and OEMs and is focusing on this by ensuring that its technology is easy for the consumer to understand. Raffel considers it essential that the design controls are intuitive and simple to use for users of all demographics.

The Wisconsin-based company is also improving the consumer experience through health and wellness in the home, where the intersection of healthcare and furniture is rapidly changing.

“We view the advancement of air massage as an area of ​​continued growth, not only for comfort, but also for the therapeutic benefits of pressure management,” said Mark Stecker, vice president of sales and marketing. . “A big question is how to continue to integrate this technology into movement furniture with the user experience in mind, and how to prevent it from becoming something new?

“When we add more technology to motion furniture, or furniture in general, one thing we keep in mind for new furniture is how it will improve the day and the lives of our users. “

Raffel Systems Air Massage uses three zones and three modes which provide benefits such as increased blood circulation, relief from stiff muscles and cramps, and the ability to vary the speed and pressure of the massage.

Leggett and Platt vice president of sales Richard Weeks said the mechanism-focused company continues to expand into comfort features, always a priority for customers.

Enouvation, a company that primarily offers power supplies, focuses on the amount of power used by its switches. Through its Efficient program, Enouvation tests switches to have the manufacturer certify that it consumes only 0.5mAh or less, which helps extend the life of a power supply even when the switch is turned off. off.

Along with its testing program, the company also launched its smart series of wireless power supplies this year to solve the problem of switches that constantly consume power whether they are on or off. The new series gives users the option of turning off power supplies manually or with an app when the power supplies are not in use, allowing those using a constant drawing system of power supplies to mitigate the energy expended.

Hello Alexa?

Voice control in the technology of all types of home appliances and furnishings has been on the rise since the release of virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home devices. Consumers can use voice commands to turn lights on and off, set alarms, add calendar events, send emails and more.

But using voice commands is a bit more complex when it comes to furniture applications.

Joe Savovic, president and CEO of furniture supplier Copper River Home, doesn’t think there’s a pressing need for voice control in moving furniture.

“Think of voice control in practical terms and why a person would find it useful or not. If there is an electrical switch handy, why would anyone need or want a voice command? Said Savovic. “The lesson is to avoid redundancies and additional costs that don’t measurably improve the product when every retailer and consumer is currently battling the headwinds of value. “

Savovic is not alone in this perspective. Raffel Systems’ Stecker agrees that voice control doesn’t add as much convenience to furniture as it does to other areas of the home.

Stecker says voice control relies on issuing specific commands through a WiFi setup in order to function properly. “In summary, if you want to improve the industry with the most advanced technology, we also want to maintain a commitment to intuitive design and convenience,” he said. “Voice control doesn’t seem to fit that right now due to how it has to be customizable for use in moving furniture. But we continue to create new ideas in this area and bring those ideas to our accounts. “

Tom Peper, COO of Enouvation, compares the convenience of voice control of his products to its usefulness.

“Multiple seats create barriers for voice control,” Peper said. “I can’t just say ‘recliner open’ because that raises the question of which recliner the sofa should open. A detailed dialogue must be created for it to be successful.

“And, with people usually already sitting in their chair when they’re lying down, why not just reach out to open and close it?” “

Previously, Enouvation had a Bluetooth program that allowed users to open and close recliners with an app, but it was seen as a novelty more than an improved feature, and the program was scrapped.

While voice control may be a similar novelty feature, Peper says Enouvation would like to see a Bluetooth-based voice control program in the future, addressing the problem of WiFi receivers needing constant charging.

Leggett & Platt’s Weeks disagree that voice control may not have a proper place in furniture. “Voice control can be an effective interface between user and products,” he said. “We see it as one of the many technologies that consumers can use to interact with their products. “

Emomo also sees great potential in home furnishing voice control, and the company has taken that step by offering Emomo voice control with over 20 commands and responding to a custom name that activates it.

“Like so many technologies, voice control in beta was a bit clunky and needed to iron out some of the wrinkles,” said Ken Partyka, president of Emomo’s Beyondsmart division. “But we live in a world of convenience, and what could be easier than using your voice? ‘Smart’ seems to imply WiFi, and furniture doesn’t. Due to the proximity to user value and recent privacy concerns, Bluetooth is a perfect option for furniture.

“These types of innovations have always been difficult to bring downstream, but everything takes time. The biggest lessons are that it has to work (quality) and it requires some consumer education (experience).

What could be next

All of these companies are looking towards the coming year with an eye on the place that innovations could have in the market.

“I think we will eventually get to wireless power,” Peper said. “At some point, I think you’ll be able to charge your power supply inside a cabinet without a cord plugged into the wall. “

Stecker sees room for smart motion seats to grow similar to the automotive and IT industry, with features like artificial intelligence, biometric controls, gesture recognition, and even new types of climate and air quality control.

Partyka agrees that there will continue to be a convergence of new, advanced ingredients to add value to furniture, going beyond some of the ways consumers can interact with furniture.

“To successfully add technology to furniture that can be used in a practical way, we just need to look around us at the ways we are already using technology on a daily basis,” said Savovic. “Then see if there’s a home furnishing app that makes sense and is user-friendly. “

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