SMART APPLIANCES are making headway this year, as several leading manufacturers exhibited Internet-connected and app-enabled washers, dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a few months ago. LG, Whirlpool, Samsung, Bosch, and others demonstrated smartphone-based control over washing and drying cycles, the ability to monitor these cycles remotely, and receive activation cues from other products like the Nest thermostat.
Whirlpool Smart Top Load Washer/Dryer
These concepts have been tossed around for years, and while it’s exciting to see them finally come to fruition, Whirlpool has taken Internet-connectivity a step further by enabling owners of its new Smart Top Load Washer and Dryer to opt into the company’s new Connect to Care program via a mobile app, which makes a donation to Habitat for Humanity every time they do a load of laundry.
As the washer and dryer give back to the community, they also get increasingly smarter. A host of downloadable cycles are available that have been optimized by Whirlpool engineers for very specific types of laundry: high-performance athletic wear, comforters, baby clothes, and more. A user simply taps the cycle of choice on his or her Whirlpool app-enabled smartphone and the washing and drying duo set-up. In an effort to make laundry time even more interactive and efficient, Whirlpool will be continually adding new cycles to the app throughout the year.
LG TWIN Wash System
Generating the biggest buzz at the LG smart appliances section of its massive CES booth was a TWIN Wash system. As the name suggests, you can do two—yes, two—loads of laundry at the same time. It’s akin to a double oven in concept, effectively allowing you to minimize the time you spend doing laundry. The top of the unit is a regular-size top-loading washing machine; the bottom mini washer is ideally suited for delicate items that require special attention or unique wash settings. LG would be remiss not to include some kind of connected technology in this unique washing machine, and this one communicates through both Wi-Fi and NFC (near field communication). Via Wi-Fi, custom cycles can be uploaded to the washer, cycle statuses can be monitored via an LG smartphone app, and alerts can be sent via Wi-Fi when the cycle is complete. Using NFC tagging technology, users can download preprogrammed wash cycles to their smartphones and then activate those cycles by simply touching the smartphone to the washing machine’s NFC Tag On symbol.
Whirlpool Magnetic Skins
As appliances continue to get smarter, they are also getting more attractive.: And it’s not just about stainless steel and compact footprints. Whirlpool, for one, may soon offer magnetized “skins” that can be attached to the front of a washer and dryer. Available in a variety of designs and colors, it will offer consumers a way to instantly alter their style. Considering the average lifespan of a washer and dryer is around 14 years, it’s an easy, affordable way spruce up your laundry room when you redecorate your house.
Bosch Home Connect
Imagine trekking to the grocery store only to realize that you left your list at home. Or, on your way to work you remember that you had left wet towels in the dryer. Bosch envisions a day when all you’ll need to do is check your smartphone to inspect the current contents of your refrigerator or to activate the clothes dryer. That day, at least for homeowners in Germany and Austria, is now, as Bosch unveiled a series of smart appliances a few months ago for this market. In addition to the refrigerator and dryer, the Home Connect line includes a smart dishwasher, washing machine, and oven. The most compelling of the group, the refrigerator, is fitted with two small IP cameras, which snap a shot of the inside of the refrigerator every time the door opens. As many as 20 photos can be stored and accessed via a smartphone app. The idea, explains a Bosch spokesperson, is to provide an instant visual status report of the current stock inside so that users can see if they need milk, orange juice, or some other item while running errands. “Or maybe after work you decide to host an impromptu cocktail party at your house,” she offers. You can click on the app and see if you should swing by the store to pick up some beer and wine.”
The app controls for the smart appliances leverage the convenience of having remote access to household appliances by allowing users to select specific cooking and cleaning settings, schedule activation times and be notified when the cycle is complete. Other offerings include recipes and cooking tips, operation instructions and videos, and remote diagnostics.
Making the connection even more convenient is the fact the all of the appliances can be monitored and managed via a single app rather than multiple individual apps.
Home Connect is currently available in Germany and Austria and will be introduced into a growing number of countries, including the United States, over the next several years. —L.M.