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.