Thursday, January 03, 2013

CES 2013: The Year the “Connected Home” Becomes a Reality?

“In the past, I think the whole industry thought it was about the Smart Grid,” says Tom Kerber, director of home research at Parks Associates. “Most of the industry has transitioned to more consumer-centric use cases, instead of energy-focused applications.”

To be sure, consumers can still expect to see some high-tech chill boxes (what I’ll call the “tweeting fridge”) and smart washers and dryers again this year. Many of these tricked-out home appliances have been marketed as Smart Grid-ready, and are often designed to work with consumer-friendly smartphone apps.

LG Electronics promises its new smart appliances — some of which are NFC-equipped — will let the user start a load of laundry while driving home from work, tell their robotic cleaner to vacuum the floor before company arrives, or view the refrigerator’s inventory of food items via their smartphone. Whirlpool is introducing a Bluetooth-capable CoolVox refrigerator, which lets consumers play music directly through the refrigerator from an app on an iPhone or tablet.

But these are costly major home appliances that have a life cycle of seven years or more. The average refrigerator’s lifespan, according to data published by Appliance Magazine in 2011, is 13 years. (And, as I’ve experienced, accessing Twitter and other Web apps from the fridge itself isn’t exactly intuitive.) Of the 9.7 million refrigerators that shipped in the U.S. and Canada in 2011, it’s estimated that a single-digit percentage of them were “connected.”

“The product lifestyle of something like lightbulbs could lend itself to consumer adoption,” Kerber says. “The maturity of technology is just accelerated now.”

Though, he adds, the cost of expensive LED bulbs could still be a deterrent for consumers. And while more-accessible home tech may be a gateway drug to the “connected home,” there’s a real risk that too much fragmentation could create a less-than-relaxing environment.

From the article, "CES 2013: The Year the “Connected Home” Becomes a Reality?" by Lauren Goode.

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