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October 7, 2015

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Appliances getting smarter: You could get a text from this fridge


Steve Marcus

Workers arrange a display of home appliances at an LG Electronics booth at the Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Jan. 8, 2012.

CES coverage

Appliance makers at this year’s International Consumer Electronics show presented a bold vision for a futuristic home, where everything from your washing machine to your oven is connected through the Internet and easily accessible from a smartphone or tablet.

Referred to as smart appliances, manufacturers are pitching the products as the next step in simplifying living.

Imagine a refrigerator that can let you know when you’re out of milk as you leave work, an LG representative said, or a washing machine that texts your phone when your laundry is done.

“It’s about consumer convenience. It’s about time management,” LG representative Randy Overton said. “We’re all so busy in our day-to-day lives, so we’re trying to make things a bit easier.”

At the LG display, a refrigerator model with an LCD touch panel can display its contents and alert the user if groceries are getting close to their expiration date.

Smart appliances will eventually let people monitor their laundry remotely or to start preheating the oven before dinner, Overton said.

LG plans to begin rolling out smart models before the end of the year, and the devices will continue to be improved upon with the ultimate goal of creating an integrated household.

At the Haier booth, a smart wine chiller was on display that allows users to monitor and adjust the temperature as needed from a smartphone. The chiller can also store information about the different bottles of wine it is holding and can even notify the owner if it loses power.

Toshiba took the smart-home concept one step further, with a scripted performance by representatives in a mock living room that was meant to showcase a house that can all be controlled by a central device, which Toshiba calls a Life Design Box.

“Smart means keeping everything comfortable without you even knowing it,” one Toshiba representative said.

Toshiba’s technology is also aimed at reducing power consumption and relies on the further development of Smart Grid technology and the widespread installation of smart electrical meters in houses.

The energy optimization technology can predict a home’s power demand and can shape consumption to maximize efficiency.

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