Chinese smartphone and appliance maker Xiaomi has announced a partnership with Swedish home furniture giant Ikea to produce smart lighting devices.
“AI plus IoT is Xiaomi’s core strategy,” Xiaomi founder and chief executive Lei Jun said at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday. “To connect everything needs collaboration with others.”
Through the collaboration, the lighting products can be controlled through smart speakers including Xiaomi’s voice assistant Xiao Ai, which is currently only available for Chinese Mandarin speakers.
“We have expertise in home furniture and we hope to learn technology from Xiaomi,” Anna Pawlak Kuliga, chief executive of Ikea China, said in an interview.
The products will initially target the mainland Chinese market but the companies will explore overseas opportunities as a next step, according to Fan Dian, general manager for Xiaomi ’s IoT platform sector.
Xiaomi reported that it has connected 132 million IoT devices (excluding cellphones and laptops) as of the third quarter ended September.
The collaboration with Xiaomi comes amid a restructuring of Ikea’s China operations to focus on enhancing its digital capabilities, with 160 existing positions to be eliminated and 3,200 new ones created in the coming two years, according to Kuliga.
“China is a very important market for Ikea and it’s changing rapidly, so we are changing our organisation accordingly,” she said.
Apart from its intention to open more bricks-and-mortar stores in China – where it has been operating for two decades – in August the furniture retailer established an e-commerce presence with its first online pop-up shop available through the WeChat mini app.
This is not the first time the Swedish furniture brand has teamed up with tech companies to explore the smart connected device market. It has collaborated with American tech giant Apple in the area of augmented reality, allowing customers to visualise an Ikea product before buying it, according to an Ikea statement.