#14 – Batimat Building Smarter

A Critical Viewpoint on Connected Bathrooms

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I was having a conversation with an elderly person about wellness, spas, health and relaxation. The person had trouble walking and catching objects with her hands. The same night I watched my children stand on a stool and reach for the faucet to brush their teeth.

I question the necessity of intensive use of technology everywhere and the belief on the manufacturer’s part that as long as you go with the flow of technology, you will successfully launch a new product for the bathroom.

Like many architects and contractors, this first week in November I visited the Batimat-Idéobains exhibitions in Paris in search of “smart” products that would integrate technology with an acute sense of simplicity.

As an architect designing hotels for 20 years, I have long ago abandoned the belief that you will please the client by allowing them to completely monitor their bedroom and bathroom, and I believe that a hotel room or a private residence should be used intuitively, on the first visit and first sight. The frequent traveler only desires an immediate sense of rest and relief, having completed a long workday.

Rainbrain. Courtesy of Hansgrohe

Rainbrain. Courtesy of Hansgrohe

Smartphone Underwater?

However, I have come across interesting products in Idéobains. One of the most complete, qualitative systems is Hansgrohe’s Rain Brain, a digital screen that controls various shower jets, lights, music and temperature, with intelligible pictograms. It caters to (and remembers) the needs of five different users.

The Grohespa cabin, based on light, sound and color effects combined with steam, is trying to attract customers with glamour. Both products require precise installation planning and well-trained contractors. I doubt, though, that the Grohe app finds its place under the shower.

It’s unlikely you’ll play with your smartphone while in the shower. Since you bathe naked, your body alone should be able to manipulate all elements.

Singing in the Shower

Kaldewei’s Sound Wave uses the bathtub as a relaxing “boombox.” Receptors are positioned under your bathtub and connected via Bluetooth to your smart devices playlists. Jacob Delafon initiated the combined showerhead and speaker with Moxie. See the video below. Grohe has also introduced Aquatunes, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker.

The Saint-Gobain company Glassolutions’ Inspiration and Desire uses glass as a conductor for light and sound. Inspiration is a shower wall that comes in five different patterns, equipped with edge LED lighting, turning the bathroom into a mini spa. Combined with the Desire backlit mirrors, it brings harmony and options like music, cold and warm light variations and the integration of a TV screen.

The Toilet: Too Much at Once

Maïra is Geberit Aquaclean’s new washing toilet. The exterior looks less cumbersome than the previous products; the seat is heated, the showerjets are more sophisticated, the remote control offers a memorization setting to retain the preferences of various individuals. The comfort resides in the LED light underneath the toilet, diffusing a reassuring blue halo at night.

Duravit’s remote control for its Sensowash allows the user to select the jets.

But why are remote controls necessary for cleaning and flushing, especially when there’s a handle placed right behind you?

I care. Courtesy of AKW

I care by AKW

Jump in, the Water’s Perfect

AKW presented I-care, a water-heater placed in the shower, connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth. An audible and illuminated signal indicates when the water is at the right temperature. All controls are grouped together and easy to push.

Jacob Delafon/Kohler : DTV prompt is a small LCD screen that displays and controls water temperature more precisely than a thermostatic tap, thanks to a digital valve. It is combined with a diverter control of the water outlet for multiple showerheads, and permits a pause in the water flow. It has a warm-up feature and exists in four different finishes.

Shower or Bath, Shower or Bath

The super flat Kaldewei Scona drain is a real advantage for an installation requiring a low shower tray.

Axor’s new approach is Axor One, a control panel adjustable with your fingers, elbows, back of the hands, etc. One central element for the water temperature and the water supply is surrounded with tactile choices for the showerheads.

Hansgrohe Select and Showerselect systems are now template features of the company. Understandable pictograms allow you to select bath or shower and the type of showerhead. Semi-recessed in the wall, Showerselect hides the pipe connections, and supports amenities.

Neo faucet by Presto. Courtesy of Idéobain. The faucet can be directed by the electric buttons situated on top.

Neo faucet by Presto. Courtesy of Idéobain. The faucet can be directed by the electric buttons situated on top.

Who’s Connecting

For the time being, the reflection on connectivity in the bathroom is not leveled across all manufacturers. Apart from the template shower control, ideas pop here and there, without real insights on when and why it could be of interest to dialogue with the objects in the bathroom.

Depending on our age, size, physical condition, we use and organize the bathroom differently. It’s time for the bath industry to address this in terms of invisible care and ease of use, as well as finding ways to increase safety in the bathroom for the elderly and the young.


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