Electrolux has insisted all major competing appliance manufacturers will soon be on the same operating platform.
This will give retailers and consumers a far wider range of smart-enabled products to choose from rather than leaving them tied to a single brand, the company explained.
Speaking exclusively to kbbreview at this week’s Smart Kitchen Summit in Dublin, David Cronström, head of strategy and ecosystems, global connectivity and technology, admitted some retailers had been reluctant to embrace connected appliances because they “hadn’t always had the best interoperability”.
However, he insisted smart products would “grow into the mainstream within the next two years” and that devices from competing brands would ultimately be able to talk to each other.
“That’s going to happen for sure,” Cronström said. “If products don’t work together, then people won’t buy them. Consumers don’t necessarily want to be locked into just having one brand. That’s why we’ve invested in the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) where we’re working with some of our closest competitors to create a protocol – a language – that allows our products to work with Samsung or LG or Sony or whoever it might be. So you can feel safe as a consumer that this is a network.”
The OCF has become one of the industry’s biggest connectivity organisations for the Internet of Things (IoT) and aims to develop specification standards, promote a set of interoperability guidelines and provide a certification program for devices.
“It has just over 460 members, including all the major brands,” Cronström explained. “They’re all working together to make sure we have an interoperable way of products talking to each other.”
Cronström also rejected concerns among retailers and consumers that connectivity was “just another thing that could go wrong” with an appliance.
“The chances that we can prevent things going wrong are even greater if it’s connected,” he argued. “We can see if there’s something not working the way it should be. We can remotely assist you or even fix the problem from a distance. That will be valuable to consumers.”
Also speaking to kbbreview, Niels Munksgaard, Electrolux kitchen product marketing director, revealed that the company had recently partnered with food tech innovator Innit – an open operating system for cooking. “We’ll be working very closely with them to build an ecosystem of players,” he said. “David and I both come from the telecoms space prior to white goods and what we saw there is that it’s so important to get a platform on which you can start delivering cooking experiences. We believe that’s the future, but it has to be an open platform. Consumers don’t want to be locked into one brand. Apple can do it because they have the power, but very few others have that power.”
Munksgaard went on to claim in-store demonstrations of connected appliances were “the next big frontier that manufacturers face” and urged dealers to help display the products more effectively.
“As we start selling these smart appliances, we need to work together with the retailer to make sure that the experience comes across,” he explained. “Because if you put a connected appliance in a row of dumb appliances, nobody will see it. So that’s the next boundary. How do we bring connected appliances on the shopfloor together?
“It’s not easy and it truly requires a strong collaboration between the manufacturer and the retailer to help each other discuss how we can make sure the consumer gets as close to the real experience as possible. Is that through the use of displays? Is it through the use of codes that the consumer can scan and see that experience on their mobile? Is it a live cooking demonstration in a kitchen showroom? That’s where we’re super-willing to work with our customers to make sure that experience comes through.”
Most retailers, Munksgaard insisted, “are extremely curious and willing” to embrace connectivity.
“Have we cracked the code yet? No, we haven’t,” he said. “But a good sign is we have many customers with us here to drive this revolution forward.”
• Pictured left to right above: Michael Wolf, founder of the Smart Kitchen Summit; David Cronström, Electrolux head of strategy and ecosystems, global connectivity and technology; and Niels Munksgaard, Electrolux product marketing director