The Future of Floors in a Connected World – By Dave Nemeth

October 21, 2016

There are many trends emerging in the flooring industry at the moment and many of them involve the actual materials from which the flooring is constructed. Many of these technological developments are happening in the vinyl and LVT (Luxury vinyl tiles) market. New laminate flooring has a feel of the real products and actually feels like real timber underfoot. Advances in technologies however have been able to make these laminates completely water and moisture resistant, including very large spills actually making them waterproof and nor merely resistant. This kind of technology obviously also assists in day to day wear and tear as well.

These ongoing technological advances have also assisted in a variety of complex finishes to be achieved. Apart from realistic products that replicate the original materials almost exactly we are seeing some high trend finishes happening as well. One of the newest of these is flooring that looks like burnt timber and then we are also seeing other “forward thinking” designs such as sparkling and metallic finishes. It is unlikely that any of these will become mainstream but they certainly add to an already extensive offering.

A buzzword on everybody’s lips at the moment is “The internet of things”, more commonly going by the acronym IoT. The problem with many of these new technologies is that people don’t fully understand them and more importantly how they could potentially innovate and disrupt existing products and industries. Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Everything (IoE) refers to devices or objects that are connected to the Internet, like your smartwatch, Fitbit, or even your refrigerator. These devices are able to collect and transmit data via the Internet, contributing to our big data world.

We collated these interesting facts from Forbes to help you get a handle on IoT, before we elaborate on how we believe the Internet of Things will affect the flooring industry.

– The majority of people (87%) have not heard of the term ‘Internet of Things’.

– ATMs are considered some of the first IoT objects, and went online as far back as 1974.

– This year, we will have 4.9 billion connected things.

– Today, the market for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, used for transmitting data to identify and track objects, is worth $11.1 billion. This is predicted to rise to $21.9 billion in 2020.This is the most common technology that is likely to be used in floors and flooring applications.

So now that we have an understanding of just how impactful this technology could be, we need to understand how this could be applied to flooring and what the benefits would be.

First and foremost, and possibly the most simple application would be to have sensors in flooring (regardless of type) to track and monitor foot traffic. This would be highly beneficial to high traffic areas such as as shopping malls. There would be huge benefits in seeing the way in which people maneuver as well as how much time they spend in certain areas. This could also be used as a safety measure in buildings, where live data could transmit where people are trapped in the event of fire or other emergencies.

There are a host of applications for places such as hospitals and care facilities where patients whereabouts can be monitored and mishaps such as falls can be immediately attended to, even in private areas such as bathrooms. This could also be used as a security measure to ensure that only the correct staff have access to certain areas. This will obviously have a host of uses in the homes of today where security is such a focus and where you will no longer need wall sensors but rather activate areas of actual flooring.

These sensors could also act as triggers for temperature and light control as well as offering warning signals in industrial areas such as factories where load bearing as well as moisture can be continually monitored.

From laminates to wooden flooring and even carpet underlays it is just a matter of time before these join the connected world. The opportunities for applications remain open for those that are forward thinking and driven to disrupting an already heavily traded industry.

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