When the shower starts talking

Martina Metzner
4. April 2019
The shower is being connected and electrified. (photo: Sieger Design)

Digital networking and control determine the bathroom of the future when it is up to the sanitary suppliers at the ISH in Frankfurt. This is the first part of our trade fair review.

The suppliers of sanitation, air-conditioning and energy technology see themselves in a key position when it comes to the great challenges of the future: the connected, smart bathroom is intended to help stressed people get fit and healthy. The focus is on energy-efficient heating and cooling technology, which is to be achieved through comprehensive digitalization – rarely has this topic dominated a trade fair to such an extent. Even a separate hashtag was created: #wirvernetzenuns (wegetconnected) is to connect all the trades. Everything is to be monitored and controlled wirelessly by the planner, installer, and user via smartphone and app.

Therefore, the smart bathroom will probably no longer remain a prophecy of audacious trend researchers: There is hardly a manufacturer who isn’t aiming at improving the level of comfort in the wet room with digital solutions and creating a holistic, multisensory experience. Wellness remains the leitmotif, while the health trend in the bathroom is intensified – with both often being combined.

Drinking water filtration systems were a popular topic at the ISH – here at Grohe (photo: Markus Bachmann / World-Architects)
The shower as mantra source

Hansgrohe, for example, presents "RainTunes": when starting the "Good Morning" scenario, the shower jet is activated and accompanied by sounds from the sound system and sprayed rosemary scent. To complement the yoga and wellness circle (or circus?), a voice instructs the user: "Slowly bring the shower to your heart. Breathe in deeply, breathe out deeply." With "RainTunes", you no longer turn analog fittings to make water flow, but you press digital buttons – a new method of operation that can also be found with many other manufacturers. It certainly takes getting used to that shower and wet areas are electrified in this way.

Even the toilet is connected, as was demonstrated by the new prototype from Vitra Bathroom. Arik Levy has designed "V-Care Smart Toilet Prime", which also incorporates smart home assistants like Alexa.

Multisensory and digitally controlled showering pleasure with "RainTunes" from Hansgrohe (photo: Hansgrohe)
Assistants conquer the bathroom

In water installation technology, "intelligent water management systems", which are connected to the main water pipe, will in future be able to warn of water damage and at best prevent it. Grohe is expanding its "Sense Guard" water system for apartment buildings and integrates assistants which also provide information on temperature and humidity. Hansgrohe keeps up with Grohe and presents "Pontos" – also with integrated assistants. The first striking difference seems to be the color: The Grohe system is completely white, while the Hansgrohe's Pontos is black. With all these digital solutions, you ask yourself how to stay on top of the jumble of apps and systems. It is not for nothing that companies are now entering into partnerships regarding the Internet of Things (IoT). Grohe, for example, cooperates with heating specialist Viessmann and kitchen specialist Miele to provide "intelligent living".

The boundaries between living and bathroom are blurring – as here at Antonio Lupi (photo: Markus Bachmann / World-Architects)
Washlets are becoming more favorably priced

It was to be expected that the ceramic specialists would continue to advance the subject of washlets. Particularly in the upmarket hotel segment, this toilet variant is increasingly being installed in order to pave the way in Europe as well, as Villeroy & Boch reports. While Toto is still the market leader, its competitors have made good progress. The challenge is to design the washlets as slim as possible rather than produce clunky installations, where you can see the integrated technology when looking at it. Attractive models are now available from well-known manufacturers starting at 1000 euros already. You may have to do without seat heating, sound, and automatic lid opening, but most now have different wash cycles for men and women. Of course, entire gender debates could be sparked of on this issue.

The trapezoidal shape is the solution for space-saving bathtubs, as Bette demonstrates (photo: Bette)

You may not believe it, but there were also thoroughly analog topics at ISH. For example, the EU Parliament wants to promote the drinking of tap water – and thus re-educate people to do without plastic bottles. A corresponding European drinking water ordinance is in preparation. The suppliers at the ISH reacted promptly: Grohe has expanded its "Blue" water filtration system, which uses activated carbon, to be incorporated in seven fittings. In addition, the company is working on a combination with Grohe "Red" – the system for boiling water directly from the tap. Rehau has already solved this challenge with "Re.Source": cooled, filtered, sparkling, and boiling water at the same time. These drinking water systems are particularly suitable for offices and catering facilities, but demand is also increasing for private households, it is reported in unison.

An assistant for all occasions: Water management systems like this one from Grohe are designed to prevent water damage (photo: Markus Bachmann / World-Architects)
More color in the bathroom

From a design point of view, coziness and color determine the bathroom of tomorrow. However, the boundaries of the bathroom are dissolving due to smaller living spaces, emphasizes bathroom designer Christian Sieger. Wood, for example, finds its way into the bathroom – driven to extremes by Axor with wood-clad bathtubs and fittings. At the same time, the sanitation companies have copied the intense colors from the furnishing industry. The colorful parade is headed by designer Stefan Diez with his bathroom furniture collection "RGB" for Burgbad, which is made of glass colored in primary shades. Black bathroom ceramics could be spotted everywhere – of course in matt –, for example the successful "Happy D" model from Duravit. Rose, a current favorite shade in interior design, should of course not be missing, as can be seen at Dornbracht in the form of the successful "Meta" series. 
Another theme at ISH was the space-saving bathroom for small living spaces. Under the title of "Steel19", Alape, in collaboration with designer Christian Sieger, presents an enameled sheet steel sink that is particularly narrow and small and takes its design vocabulary from the classic sink. And titanium-steel-enamel specialist Bette focuses on a duo bathtub in slim trapezoidal shapes.

Seen through rose-colored glasses: "Meta" from Dornbracht (photo: Dornbracht)
To be continued…

In the second part of our review, which will appear in two weeks' time, Professor Markus Pfeil provides information on the highlights of the ISH with regard to energy and air-conditioning technology.

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