Twisting knobs and pulling levers is out – these days, washbasin mixers and shower fittings are operated with a push or a gesture instead. Especially in the fittings segment, the little technology revolution taking place in the bathroom is influencing many of the new products making their debut at the ISH 2017.Whereas up until now contact-free technology for controlling and regulating the flow of water was largely restricted to the public sphere, it is now conquering the private bathroom as well. But far from being a mere gimmick, the mushrooming presence of technical features in the bathroom helps meet very concrete (everyday) requirements, allowing the bathroom to be adapted to users’ ergonomic needs and adjusted to their changing circumstances if necessary.
As for the various groups of users, millennials are of course perfectly used to the omnipresence of technical features in communication and control, whereas older generations have a little more trouble with such things. And yet it’s precisely older users who stand to benefit the most from intelligent product features, because they aren’t just more convenient to use, they improve safety as well. That’s why intuitive usability is a top priority for such sophisticated controls. The attractive product applications the industry is developing for both groups of users could change the market over the next few years.
Many products for the bathroom are currently receiving a great deal of attention because they are experiencing a kind of evolutionary leap: digitalisation. As in the car industry, an entire product cosmos has to be rethought. Functions and controls are changing, and with them the fundamental parameters for fittings, vanity units and showers. Besides the targeted selection of various water modes, programmes and individual functions in the shower and elsewhere, bathroom lighting is another area that is making rapid headway. Thanks to modern LED technology, light can be used to emotionalise the room and take its spatial quality to a whole new level. Electricity is also needed for the numerous touchless fittings that are becoming increasingly popular not just in public buildings but in private homes as well – partly because of their slender proportions.
Many of the new products are operated simply by pushing a button. Besides the ergonomic advantages, that provides various other benefits as well. Only a single button is needed to change the spray mode on the hand shower, for instance, and the temperature can be adjusted just as conveniently. It’s often even possible to position the controls independently of the water outlet. And with basin and thermostatic mixers, there’s no longer any need to fiddle about trying to get the temperature right with soapy hands – that too can now be done at the push of a button. Even selecting the spray modes on the shower head itself is much more convenient than before thanks to new functions integrated into the hand shower.
Other types of technology are finding their way into the bathroom via apps, gesture control and mirror cabinets: these days there is an app that will run a bath for you when you’re getting near the end of your jogging session, and another that displays the morning weather report on the mirror cabinet.The vanity unit and mirror cabinet also seem to be the starting point for many of the other innovations making their way into the latest product developments.In future, for example, the entire lighting design in a medium-sized bathroom will be concentrated in the vanity ensemble – thanks to specially developed LED luminaires that provide the ambient lighting as well. It’s definitely worthwhile having the bathroom rewired while it’s being renovated because the new digital equipment doesn’t just need water, it needs electricity too.
In the Digital Bathroom, there’s usually more to things than meets the eye. Ceramic is ceramic and stainless steel is stainless steel, but in future all sorts of controls or sensors might be hidden away in other seemingly homogenous surfaces made of mineral cast, glass or plastic. It’s the surfaces that provide the material for potential functions. And there are plenty of them – functions that already can or soon will make the bathroom safer, more convenient and multimedia-enabled. In future, there will be far more electrical contacts behind the wall and information or pictures will be projected onto mirrors. We will wave in the direction of integrated sensors concealed in glass surfaces to activate the lighting and start programmes. Even the floor can be used not just for heating elements but for sensors too. Either hidden beneath the tiles or embedded in special mats, they can control various features or detect when somebody falls and trigger an alert.
For example, the electronic fitting Comfort Select by Kaldewei is operated via a control panel on the rim of the tub and allows users to select exactly the temperature they want before the water even starts running – all at the push of a button. Whether they opt for the default setting (38.5C) or want a warmer or cooler bath, the tub fills with water at a consistent temperature right from the very first second. And if they change their minds, they can adjust it in increments of 0.5C with a gentle tap of the finger. But the Comfort Select control panel doesn’t just control the temperature. It also regulates the flow of water into and out of the bath.
The principle behind Grohe’s Rainshower SmartControl is very simple: three buttons are all that’s needed to adjust and even save all the desired settings. The middle button is pushed to turn the shower on and turned to regulate the flow. And thanks to the textured surface, using it with wet hands is no problem. To stop the water you just push on the button again, automatically saving the selected flow rate for your next shower in the process. The spray pattern is also selected at the push of a button rather than having to be adjusted on the spray plate itself. It’s equally simple to combine various spray patterns, and switching between the overhead shower and hand shower is child’s play too: again, a quick push on the corresponding button is all that’s required. All the control elements are equipped with self-explanatory symbols for intuitive use. It couldn’t be easier.