Connected appliances belong at the forefront of the "internet of things" but are they any use? And how well do they integrate with a smart home? Caramel Quin finds out
Of course the reality doesn’t quite live up to the potential. So, with a few notable exceptions, most of today’s smart kitchen appliances talk to your smartphone or tablet but they don’t talk to each other. While it’s hard to imagine a meaningful conversation between a washing machine and a fridge, you can imagine a washing machine that tells a tumble dryer what sort of load to expect (see Whirlpool) or a fridge and an oven that conspire to plan your dinner. Interaction is the future.
What’s it like to own one?
But for now, instead of a suite of appliances that interact, a bunch of individual appliances from one manufacturer can be controlled via the same app side by side. The various manufacturers don’t use the same ecosystem though. Buy two different brands and you’re talking two different apps. This will hopefully change in time, but for now you need brand loyalty if you want a single user interface.
Another consideration is how much you will benefit from the various smart features. One owner we spoke to explained that she and her partner use their internet connected fridge freezer in very different ways…
The owner’s view: “My husband loves the fact the fridge has a camera in it,” says Victoria. “I swear he does more grocery shopping now and he certainly gets the grocery shopping right now! Personally, I rarely use that because I pretty much remember what’s in the fridge anyway. I only check occasionally. But a couple of times it’s messaged to alert me when someone in the family has left the door open. It alerts me even if I’m out of the house – so I can ring someone and ask them to close it. We have a lot of people coming and going in our house so it happens easily. The fridge will honestly pay for itself for that feature alone, in not accidentally defrosting the freezer!”
The retailer’s view: William Cummings, assistant buyer for large electrical at John Lewis, says there’s growing interest in smart home products, with the category up 120%. But for now they’re mostly buying individual appliances, as and when they replace old models with new tech.
“As more appliances communicate with each other we anticipate that customers will steer towards the appliance that works with what they already have and build in this way. For example, a tumble dryer will know what you have just washed in your washing machine and set the programme accordingly.”
He also anticipates that our smart kitchen appliances will start interacting with our smart homes as a whole. With new products imminent that will be able to do this.
“We are certainly starting to see this technology coming through with products such as the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator,” says Cummins. “This can be integrated into a broader Smart Home environment from watching TV on the built in screen to hosting the family planner and holding messages.
So who’s got what?