Digital advances are emerging as one of the hottest trends in the home appliance space. Think refrigerators that track your food inventory and expiration dates; washers and dryers you control remotely with a smartphone; robotic vacuum cleaners. “2012 is becoming the year, when connected appliances become more mass marketable and more mainstream,” says Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces the annual show.
The evolution of these new appliances can be traced to the explosion of mobile devices. Another factor is cloud computing, which allows your many devices to easily communicate and sync with one another. Tech savvy consumers want their traditional white-box appliances do the same. In addition to smart technology, more consumers demand energy-efficient appliances. In fact, with higher utility bills and gasoline prices, consumers are more concerned about saving energy and money than saving water and using less plastic, according to a recent study by the Consumer Electronics Association.
The upshot is some of the most sophisticated appliances — some with four-figure prices to match. DuBravac says the market for connected appliances is just beginning. Looking ahead, he imagines a futuristic home, where your digital body scale and refrigerator sync to offer healthy meal ideas and recipes; maybe even a polite, audio reminder to stay away from the ice cream. “Consumers are just now being presented with the opportunity of accessing a host of different information from different devices,” DuBravac says.
So click ahead to view some of the coolest smart-tech appliances. But alas, the items won’t prepare dinner or take out the garbage. They’re not that smart.
By Heesun Wee
Posted 27 March 2012
Price: Not available (product debuts late 2012)
Digital Smarts: The company is hoping to make a splash with its “Smart ThinQ” technology. Not only can appliances be controlled remotely from smartphones and TVs, the appliances and digital devices communicate with one another. For example, as you watch your favorite program on TV, you can get laundry-cycle updates on your TV screen. There’s no need to go to the machine.
When you’re out of the house and worried about your laundry, just pull out your smartphone, which will alert you if there’s a problem like a water input issue. And if you poured in the fabric softener and changed your mind, that’s not a problem. Just adjust the washing machine controls. The washers are scheduled to hit retailers in the third quarter.
Price: NA (product debuts late 2012)
Digital Smarts: If you buy this high-tech refrigerator, you’ll be better organized. When you come home with groceries, scan your receipt with your smartphone. The fridge will keep an inventory of your items and expiration dates. Alternatively, you can scan the bar codes off individual items.
The fridge will alert you when you’re out of items or they’re about to expire. Enter family health and dietary details and your fridge can recommend recipes based on its contents. When you’re out of food, no need to reach for a laptop or tablet and order from an online grocery store. Just click on the fridge’s display screen, or LCD panel, that has a wireless connection to the Internet — and order what you need. You may never jot down a grocery list again. The fridge will be available around the fourth quarter.
Digital Smarts: This is one fancy, WiFi-enabled scale. Every time you step onto the scale, it automatically measures your weight, lean-and-fat mass and body mass index. You can access this data through a web browser or your smartphone and track your progress over time. The scale’s dashboard lets you manage up to eight users.
Digital Smarts: Admit it. You’ve probably considered buying one of these chordless devices, if only to confuse your pet. The robot automatically adjusts to different surfaces including hardwood, tile and linoleum. The vacuum robot’s head was designed with pet owners in mind and picks up pet hair, as well as dirt, dust and allergens.
Of course, a key part of the allure is the robot’s ability to roam your home, including those hard to reach places. Roomba also returns to its “home base” to recharge between cleanings.
Price: $2,699 or $3,499
Digital Smarts: Samsung’s advanced refrigerators feature four temperature-setting options. Meat and fish, for example, can be stored at 29 degrees Fahrenheit and wine can be kept slightly warmer at 42 degrees. There are separate cooling systems in the refrigerator and freezer to regulate temperature and humidity. One drawer is adjustable so kids easily can reach for it.
But the fun really begins with the fridge’s touch screen LCD panel. Select the “Grocery Manager” that tracks your food inventory. For example, when you buy eggs, hit the egg carton icon on the LCD panel and the refrigerator will alert you when the food is about to expire. Additional apps include Epicurious recipes, a Google calendar, Internet radio service Pandora and weather updates.
Price: $3,398 for both
Digital Smarts: Samsung’s WF457 Wi-Fi-enabled washer and dryer perform a multitude of tasks — short of placing, removing and folding your clothes. The front-loading washer features a 4.5-cubic-foot capacity, one of the largest in the industry. The machine comes with a smart-phone application so you can monitor cycles remotely and receive alerts if there are problems. The washer’s advanced rinsing systems means a cycle that’s up to 25 percent shorter compared to conventional washers. The washer and dryer will be available beginning in May.
Digital Smarts: Forget the old-fashioned dead bolt. This home camera-security system is right out of the movies. The WiFi wireless network camera allows you to monitor and control your camera from anywhere in the world. The secret is the camera’s built-in web server and continuous DVR recording ability, which streams video on your smartphone. Built-in infrared LED lighting allows vision and recording up to 30 feet in complete darkness.
Digital Smarts: This under-the-counter unit has lots of bells and whistles, designed to control the temperature, humidity and light exposure that could affect your precious bottles. The tinted, tempered glass door includes a UV filter. The LED lighting system doesn't affect the interior temperature. There are two separate cooling zones, so you can store white and red wines and champagne simultaneously. Fresh air is distributed throughout the wine unit. An alarm sounds if there’s a power failure, rise in temperature or if the door is left ajar.
Digital Smarts: This dishwasher includes an “AutoSensor” that determines the amount of water and detergent needed, based on the number of dishes in the machine. Its “RemoteVision” technology system alerts Miele if there’s a malfunction through a wireless Internet connection. Additional features include LED lighting, 10 wash cycles and less noise when in operation.
Price: $3,998 for both
Digital Smarts: First of all, the washer-dryer pair looks really cool. Inside the washer, “Cycle-Logic” technology offers 33 multiple-cycle choices including athletic wear, baby items, jeans, bath mats, shower curtains, shoes, swimwear and stuffed animals. If those don’t grab you, program your own.
If you’re a laundry newbie and perplexed by fabric stains, an LCD touch screen offers cleaning tips. For example, enter chocolate stain and cotton shirt and the machine offers cleaning tips.
The machines are also extremely energy efficient. The washer senses the amount of clothes inside and adjusts water use accordingly. The washer generally uses 76 percent less water and 75 percent less energy compared to conventional machines manufactured before 2004. The dryer includes and energy-efficient setting. The Vantage dryer features an eco-setting, which cuts energy use through efficient heat management. Plus, an “EcoMonitor” system for both machines tracks the amount of energy saved per load so consumers can track their savings over time.