Appliances Strengthen Smart Home Connections At CES

Amidst all of the robot kittens, video gaming accessories, home surveillance systems and flying taxis debuting at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), manufacturers featured a range of products specifically designed to strengthen the connection between smart home appliances and consumer lifestyle needs, including developments in the kitchen, personal care, wellness and cleaning categories.

The smart home segment at CES continues to draw forward-thinking suppliers and retailers looking to establish a stronger bond with the consumer and drive sales of connected appliances. Small appliance product highlights at CES included many items focusing on helping consumers achieve a healthier lifestyle, including smart appliances designed to help consumers improve cooking speed and accuracy in the kitchen; make informed choices in meal preparation; enhance personal grooming and wellness; and simplify cleaning chores.

“We believe it is important to meet consumer needs in terms of integration with other smart home connected products, in order to enhance the customer experience,” said Chris Jones, chief technology officer for iRobot, which showcased its Roomba and iSeries robotic vacuums and the Braava jet m6 robotic mop at CES. “Products are not just connected, but integrated in a meaningful way with other connected products in the home to add value to the consumer within the broader smart home ecosystem.”

Other industry experts also cited the importance of addressing specific consumer preferences. “The consumer isn’t necessarily interested in ‘smart,’” said Joe Derochowski, home industry advisor for The NPD Group. “Smart isn’t a benefit… but smart can be a benefit if it solves a consumer need. So, in order to succeed, a smart appliance has to be better, faster, healthier, safer— it has to offer some attribute that improves on an existing behavior and addresses a consumer need.”

“For example, in appliances, a smart device might help solve the consumer question ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’” Derochowski added. “There are more products being introduced that take this approach, which makes the smart home category poised for takeoff. There are so many consumer needs that are not being met, so smart appliances definitely are on the precipice. I believe 10 years from now, only products that serve a real consumer need will survive, and most of those will have some sort of smart component to them.”

Some of the most widely-accepted applications for smart appliances are in the personal care, health and wellness categories, where consumers have already shown great acceptance of fitness trackers and other products designed to promote a healthier lifestyle and heighted awareness.

Several appliance firms showcased kitchen products at CES that are designed to make the cooking process easier, more convenient, faster and more accurate. For instance, Whirlpool Corp.’s Yummly Smart Thermometer combines a dual-temperature thermometer with a recipe app offering more than two million recipes and a subscription service with access to video lessons by chefs. Yummly users can track the cooking process remotely on a smart phone and get alerts in real-time when the food is cooked to the proper temperature.

Hamilton Beach highlighted both smart slow cookers and smart coffeemakers at the show. The Hamilton Beach Connected Slow Cooker gives consumers the option to cook with integrated probe technology and adjust cooking from the HB Connected App, allowing them to use a mobile device to set and adjust cooking time; real-time alerts allow the cooking process to be monitored and adjusted remotely.

The company also spotlighted the Hamilton Beach Smart 12-Cup Coffeemaker, which allows consumers to use Alexa voice commands to manually prepare coffee, to switch between regular or bold brew strength, to turn off the coffeemaker remotely, and to program the coffeemaker to start at a specific time. The clock automatically keeps correct time by syncing wirelessly.

Many industry executives pointed to communication and integration as the key factors that will drive sales of smart home products going forward.

“The software needs to advance to the point where devices can talk to each other, and where updates are seamlessly handled by the devices,” said NPD’s Derochowski. “No one wants to need an IT person to run their home.”

For more on CES, see the January 20 issue of HomeWorld Business.