Plug it in: How the Internet is changing furniture forever

Monday, November 3, 2014

The direct-mail catalogs used to say "Order from the comfort of your own home." Now they might say "Order from the comfort of your recliner." Or bed. Or desk. Maybe someday they'll say "just think about it," and we'll be able to order stuff by ESP. We're not there, yet. But we're gaining.

How about a chair with A USB port? A charging station? Bluetooth? Yup. Which makes your recliner, or sectional, or adjustable bed, or whatever, a way to relax and get things done at the same time.

While it's been around in some form since the 1960's, it really started to take off in 1995, when the last restrictions on its use to carry commercial traffic were removed. The Web came to life. Boom. In the past 20 years it's become an indispensable part of our daily lives. Right now more than 80% of people living in "developed" countries use it daily. Some use it constantly.

First available only by computer, it quickly spread, first to cars, then to phones, then to just about everywhere, even furniture.

The truth is, it's addictive, because it makes so many things so much simpler and faster. Want to remind Henry to close the garage door? Send him a tweet. Done. Want to find out what's happening with your BFF's? Hop onto Facebook. What could be easier? Or more fun?

The problem is, we don't want to give up that instant connectivity. Not even when we're nodding off during the last quarter of a Raiders game. We want to be plugged in. So the furniture manufacturers oblige us by providing ways for us to stay that way.

That's why you'll now find charging stations and electical outlets just about everywhere you look. In recliners, sofas, nightstands, dressers, and buffets. Look a little harder and you'll find a plethora of USB ports, so you can charge you smart phone or tablet as you relax, watch the latest episode of Downton Abby, or sleep.

Be persistent, and you'll find Bluetooth starting to appear. Prime Resources, for example, has a variety of recliners and sofas with built-in AC power, USB ports, and Bluetooth. So there's not much of any reason to get up anymore, except to make the popcorn.

And speaking of Bluetooth, some manufacturers, like Tempur-Pedic, Serta, and others, make adjustable beds with AC power, USB ports, and Bluetooth. Some even have a free app available you can download into your smart phone or tablet and operate the bed with it, along with all your other paired devices, like your new coffee pot or the thermostat.

Furniture changes as society advances. It's always been true. Because we now find ourselves in the age of the internet, manufacturers are building that phenomenon into their products, to make them even more convenient, more functional, and therefore a more indispensable part of our daily lives. If you're one of the millions who can't live without being continuously connected, next time you go shopping for new furniture check to see if it has all the bells and whistles (and USP ports) you need.

So you can stay plugged in.