Financial News

  • 15 May 2014, 12:29

Dixons Carphone Eyes The World Of Future Tech

It all sounds pretty retro.

The new company to be formed by the merger of Dixons and Carphone Warehouse will be called Dixons Carphone - very 1980s.

And one of its businesses is PC World - which feels slightly more recent, but is still about as dated as an episode of Friends.

But the £3.7bn merger could be the future of how we buy technology in the UK.

And it's all about internet-enabled toasters.

Let me explain.

For some time now, technologists have been prophesying the "internet of things".

This is the quasi-nirvana whereby physical objects in the real world - including toasters, but also cars, thermostats, washing machines, front doors - all become part of the network of networks that is the internet.

These devices all talk to each other, machine-to-machine, and are all controllable digitally - from the web, your smartphone or Google Glass. (The Sonos home music player, built into ceilings but controlled from your smartphone, is an existing example of this.)

According to research firm Gartner, 26 billion "things" will join the internet by 2016.

Tom Coates' house is what the internet of things looks like in the real world. A British designer working in San Francisco, he has installed sensors around his home - and given his house a Twitter account, @houseofcoates.

Weighing scales, light switches and thermostat all chip in, resulting in tweets like: "Tom just weighed himself. I'm going to leave it up to him to tell you if it's good news though."

The house is a playful first step towards an internet of things. It's easy to imagine where to goes next: lawn sprinklers which turn on if the house detects it has been days without rainfall, toasters that start toasting when your morning alarm goes off, lights that turn off when you're not in the room - or the weighing scales to go online and order healthier food if Mr Coates' weight increased too much. Then beyond.

Mr Coates is an early adopter. Recently he wrote: "For me the most important change is the move from Internet of Things concept cars and interaction design experiments, to a new world where the things we're building are simply, cleanly useful."

He cites Nest - the smart thermostat and alarm maker recently bought by Google - as an example of this.

At tech show CES this year, Samsung also showed off smart fridges and washing machines.

And this is where Dixons Carphone comes in. After all, you need somewhere to buy all this gear.

Carphone Warehouse has long excelled at reinventing itself with each wave of mobile technology, from carphones through mobiles, smartphones, tablets and the wearables to come.

The next stage is the integration of these mobile devices with the household - the territory of Currys and PC World.

The new company will be able to offer not just standalone products, but integrated, personalised systems.

It might help with some of the more complex installations in your house.

Rather than catching up with new consumer tech habits, Dixons Carphone is looking to get ahead of them.

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