July 27, 2021

Not Quite Smart Enough

But if you’re thinking of a futuristic home like that of the Jetsons, think again. These smart appliances are not all that smart, at least not yet.

“It’s been around for a while and it hasn’t caught fire,” said Neil Strother, an analyst at Pike Research. “It seems like a cool dryer here, a fancy refrigerator there. It needs to be better packaged where if I pay an extra $200 for an appliance, show me the payback.”

Smart appliances are part of a larger trend toward smart electronics, which took hold with phones and is now moving rapidly toward televisions and household appliances. “Smart” may have been the most commonly used adjective at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — with smart TVs, cameras, vacuums, remote controls, to name a few, on abundant display.

The idea is that consumers can control the devices, which can communicate wirelessly, with their smartphones, tablets or televisions. So the owner of a smart refrigerator could check what’s in the refrigerator on a smartphone, and in some instances, send photographs to be displayed on the refrigerator’s LCD screen.

But the smart refrigerators being offered these days aren’t smart enough to keep track of the food inside; consumers still need to do that themselves with a touch screen. And while smart washers allow remote changing of the settings, some question how many consumers would be willing to pay for that perk.

Meanwhile, an important selling point of smart appliances is that they can link into a smart electrical grid that keeps tabs on energy use and programs them to run during off-peak hours, saving money. But the smart-grid projects are just getting under way in the United States. Christopher Mims, who writes about technology for Technology Review, among others, said he thought that while the energy-saving features on smart appliances were interesting, many others were superfluous.

He recently checked out a Samsung smart refrigerator. “It has Pandora and a weather app,” he said. “You have to ask yourself, why wouldn’t you look at your phone that is in your pocket?”

David MacGregor, the president of Longbow Research, tracks some appliance manufacturers and said smart appliances will make more sense when the building industry recovers, and when they can be incorporated into new homes. “It does have the potential to become more meaningful longer term,” he said of the new technology.

Other industry officials say that the efforts to make the kitchen smart are just beginning, and that the appliances will get better and cheaper in coming years.

Boo-Keun Yoon, Samsung’s president for consumer products, said in an interview at the electronics show that smart appliances will make consumers’ lives easier, allowing them to turn on the air-conditioner a half an hour before they get home, get an alert when the dryer is done, or scribble messages on the LCD screen on their refrigerator.

“We have all entered the smart age,” he said, adding that he hopes consumers embrace the “smart age” by buying Samsung products.

In an earlier “smart age,” in 2000, Sharp introduced a microwave that could pull recipes off the Internet and set the appropriate temperature, and Sunbeam created a separate company, Thalia Products, for “thinking and linking intelligent appliances.” These efforts flopped.

“I get enormous amusement seeing what is going on,” said John Hamann, the former chief executive of Thalia Products, who said the company folded, a victim of Sunbeam’s financial woes. “We were talking about this 10 years ago.”

Mr. Hamann, who attended this year’s electronics show, said he believed the latest generation of smart products were not compelling enough.

“I think there is still way too much emphasis on technological wizardry and far too little on consumer benefit,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ddc28d48d9fb430d8dc42f13f0062ab7

Speak Your Mind