The Internet of Things approaches the luxury market

How smart devices will cater to the 1%

Tucked away in a courtyard in central London is a smart apartment that's smarter than most. Tricked out with smart speakers, a home cinema and a connected kitchen, the flat is designed to showcase the latest in smart audio, lighting and other home technology for the super-wealthy.

The apartment was built by Cornflake, a home-tech company that caters to the 1%. Together with agency SharpEnd, Cornflake is bring the Internet of Things to life for luxury brands.

The idea is to remove some of the mysticism around the Internet of Things and demonstrate how luxury brands, in particular, could benefit from the emerging technology.

SharpEnd CEO Cameron Worth described this as building "invisible service layers." The trouble with brands playing in this space, he says, is that they tend to wall off their experiments from the public. Alternatively, they show off their innovations in tiny demo areas, which don't capture the potential magic of the Internet of Things.

"Brands struggle with this," Worth said. "The Internet of Things is about activating the real world; it isn't like building a Facebook app. This needs a live installation.

"Where most stuff has to be controlled by tablets or a smartphone, we’re looking at things that just happen around the person."

A mirror concierge

One example might be linking fragrance and cosmetics brands with a smart mirror, Worth said.

"If I'm in front of a smart mirror, what information can that give me to prepare for the day better? It's like a concierge service."

Another example is Pernod Ricard's own prototype, Project Gutenberg. This comprises a "library" of book-shaped containers holding a bottle of spirits and set on a platform that hooks up to a PC. It supplies services like home delivery, cocktail recipes and tailored offers.

Other brands in discussions with SharpEnd include a smart watch company, a high-end drinks firm covering whisky, champagne and vodka and a coffee company. Most are luxury brands since, Worth notes, an Internet of Things-enabled stock cube "lessens the experience" somewhat.

SharpEnd is examining technologies such as interactive surfaces - a little like baking an iPad into the kitchen surface, weight-sensitive shelves and RFID technology.

For brands, the point is to make the experience totally seamless and nothing at all like advertising.

"Brands can't be looking at this as, 'This is an experience brought to you by Brand X,' " Worth said. "It should be happening around the consumer, so it's more value and less ads."

This shouldn't be too much of a shock to brands, who have had to adjust to a new reality of ad blocking and a growing dislike of marketing without value.

"The miniaturization of devices and interfaces doesn't lend itself to ads," Worth said. "As [technology] becomes more invisible, brands need to match that in the way they talk to people.

"So if we were creating something for a champagne brand, we would do something that heightens that experience. We think moments and experiences will be the things people value."

This article first appeared on

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