Smarten up

29 Sep, 16

Wise up to connected appliance sales says editor Philippa Turrell

“A TV in a fridge? That’ll never take off” used to be the resounding retort when talking about technology to kitchen designers and retailers. “A TV?….In a fridge?” Despite sounding like a poor impersonation of Peter Kaye and his views on garlic bread, I’ve tasted it and it’s the future.

Okay, well maybe not a TV per se but certainly ovens, fridges and washing machines now offer so much more than just to cook, cool and clean. And the way we are interacting with them is through a screen, although TV has been now been usurped by the smartphone and tablet. We want appliances to intuitively help us, give us an indication of food spoilage, let us know if the cake is burning, if we need another pint of milk when we’re at the shops, and offer advice when we can’t get rid of that troublesome stain on our best outfit.

Certainly that was the over-riding premise of launches at consumer electronics and home appliances. And these weren’t just concepts for the kitchen of the future, these are product launches for the here and now (or next year at the latest). At the show, industry experts were bullish about the impact of digital on home appliances, with the smart home – complete with connected appliances – expected to comfortably become a reality within 5-10 years.

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And judging by a report from KBIS in Shanghai, bathrooms aren’t trailing behind in terms of connectivity, either. There, a screen was either integrated into products to control a media player or the bathroom mirror, itself, becomes the control hub. Outside of entertainment connectivity is about health. If you consider the amount of wearables sold, monitoring exercise, standing and sleeping patterns, it’s not inconceivable this, too, will shortly make an impact in UK bathroom design. And if you don’t believe how rapidly the Far East can influence further afield – just consider the phone version of Pokémon!

What all these technologies have in common is that they are inclusive. They are easy to use for the growing older population and for the Millennials who crave digital content, knowledge through experience (why else all the YouTube tutorials?) and the ability to customise appliances to their exact requirements. In very basic terms, think of the plethora of smartphone and tablet covers let alone having the ability to install Apps of choice and position them, where they are most convenient, on the screen.

On first impression it may be easy to disregard the smart home, as a TV in a fridge. But with the future consumers for kitchen and bathroom retailers comprising the older generation and Millennials, it shouldn’t be ignored. Connected appliances are already here and the smart home is gathering speed, so perhaps it’s time we all smarten up our act.