Despite my decades of faithful attendance at International CES, it strikes me odd in recent years to see the abundance of white goods--home appliances--at leading CE companies’ booths.
I found myself wondering why we’re suddenly talking about fridges, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Next thing you know, I’ll stumble into the Westinghouse booth and find Betty Furness in pearls and cocktail dress.
As far as I remember, CES was always a show about what was once known as “brown goods”--home entertainment systems--for parties. It was never about the vacuum cleaner you used to clean up after the party.
The transition to digital platforms; emerging format battles over the next-generation optical storage devices; standards for audio and video codecs; wired and wireless home networking technologies; mobile phones and tablets…there was always, and still is, so much to cover.
But beyond those home entertainment systems, we are now suddenly seeing home appliances masquerading as red hot new products at CES.
Why is that?
If you detected a touch of dismay in my tone, you’re
right. I’ve been more than a little perplexed to see the 21st century
revert to the 1950s. But then, it hit me.
I thought of how Colin Angle (left) and James Dyson (below) are treated in Japan.
These guys are rock stars in the Japanese media. Every high-end magazine in Japan carries an ad by Dyson or iRobot. In each ad, Dyson or Angle--each is a slender, good-looking, casually dressed CEO of his company--struts his job. Close your eyes a little and you might think you’re looking at Steve Jobs.
Beyond the personality factor, there was also ample evidence at CES as to why the once lowly home appliance is staging a comeback.
Scott Ahn, CTO of LG Electronics, talked about “Smart Control,” which allows users to manage appliances with voice commands via smartphone and to monitor LG's appliances from outside the home.
By simply scanning a smartphone with the NFC Tag-on symbol on LG's smart appliances, LG says users can register and control their refrigerator, washing machine, robotic vacuum cleaner or range remotely. Ahn gave the example of controlling a washing cycle on his smartphone. He also talked about the ability to monitor--remotely--how a robotic vacuum cleaner is doing its job.
When I first saw the LG's add of connected appliance, I think it's a hook to consumers to drive them either buy their smartphone if they own LG appliance or to buy their appliance if they own LG smartphone. I still believe that. Nonetheless, i can't rule out the potential of connected appliance. It might be able to tell you that you don't know or already forget - like expired food in the fridge.
Duane,I might suggest setting a timer on your smart "whatever" or just on the stove and have it go off when the washer or the dryer should be finishing. That is a low tech but effective means to smarten up your wash duties..
I think that these electronified (I avoided the term "smart") appliances have become "glamor goods." It's another place that early adopters can venture into - another place people can go to "one up" their friends and neighbors.
Beyond that, I'm not sure anyone really knows how much these new devices will change our lives. We may eventually find out that no one really gets added utility out of a connected refrigerator, but that everyone will find the need to own a connected coffee maker. I think we'll find uses we never thought possible.
I, personally do see the utility in a connected washer / dryer. Mine are in a location that I can't readily hear. I often get busy and forget about the wash machine until the clothes have set so long that they need another wash cycle. A text message from the washer could get me up there in time to prevent that and my drier could contact me in time to get the clothes out before they wrinkle.
One could probably come up with a practical use for putting connectivity into just about anything. How about a lowly garden hose? If the hose is left out pressurized on a hot day, it can burst. If it's left left out with water in it during freezing weather, the same could happen. That's a perfect place for an IP connected sensor, once the cost gets low enough.
Actually, having a smartphone interface to a washer or dryer would be really, really nice in an apartment complex or college dorm.
Before walking down three flights of stairs with a heavy hamper filled with dirty clothes, you could check if a washer is available (and even reserve it if the software is really done right). Then it could text you when it is done.
I'm guessing that this isn't what they are doing with the technology, though. It is a shame.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.