Swift Electrical’s commercial director, Malcolm Scott, explains why he remains unconvinced about the benefits of smart appliances
Is the smart money on smart appliances? Should we be taking the whole proposition more seriously? Do consumers even want them and, more importantly, will they pay for them?
The Whirlpool brand has a fabulous video on its website telling you how smart appliances will develop into being absolutely essential in the modern home. It features a large splashback that is also an information panel. Equipped with sensors, this works together with an induction top to automatically work out the contents of what’s been placed on it and start cooking.
This kind of technology is still fiction, but Whirlpool does have interactive appliances on the US market that operate via an app from Amazon. There’s a washing machine and a dishwasher that automatically work out how much soap is used in each cycle and order more each time you run short. In the UK, they have several products that you can switch on and off from your phone.
Samsung has its Family Hub fridge-freezer range with large LCD display panels on the front that allow you to use the surface as a family notice board or create your own coloured drawings on the surface. The panel also acts as a computer monitor screen and has a built-in speaker to play music or watch YouTube. There is also a built-in camera and an app that allows you to keep track of the fridge contents.
Under its Bosch and Siemens brands, BSH has a range of smart appliances – washing machine, dishwasher, fridge-freezer, coffee maker and ovens that allow you to operate and program them from your tablet or smartphone. It also has an app that lets you Google recipes then transmits this information to the oven control panel, saving them to use again as required. It, too, has a fridge-freezer with a built in camera to view the contents remotely.
Hoover has a full suite of built-in appliances that can be switched on and off and programmed from a smartphone or tablet.
But try as I might, I cannot see any real benefit in most of these ‘gadgets’ yet, and so I’m quite sure that, while there will always be a few customers who will pay to have something different, we are a long way away from making these features desirable to most consumers.
Appliance manufacturers are moving in the right direction, and many of the apps designed to go with these new features are more useful than the features, as they’re an easy way to show consumers how versatile the appliance can be.
Smart technology is certainly one to watch, but it’s not yet mainstream.