Does the ‘smart’ segment have legs?

Smart technology has been receiving huge investments over the past few years, with analysts predicting the opening of consumer-led floodgates in the near future. Both Google and Samsung have made major aquisitions in this arena, and ‘smart’ tech start-ups remain highly in-demand in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. The UK has also been at the forefront of this emerging market, with the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction a vital component of local know-how and increasingly backed by Cambridge corporate finance.

A scenario where you can control your refrigerator, washing machine and air conditioner via your laptop, tablet or smartphone appears likely to become a reality in the short-term future. In response to rising growth in Internet users, appliances manufacturers’ product development is increasingly aligned with mobile connectivity and apps.

Development is however notably accelerating with the emergence and rapid sales growth for smartphones and tablets, with these products evolving in line with consumers’ lifestyles. Innovation increasingly involves interaction with the smart grid to understand what food types consumers purchase, how they cook and how they wash clothes, with this information being applied to the feature offering of appliances that are commonly used.

Moving forwards, manufacturers are also expanding appliances’ features with the Internet of Things (IoT), which shares information interactively across appliances and electronics for a total home package. Electrolux Corp, Haier Group, LG Corp and Panasonic Corp are part of All Seen Alliances, which is a cross-industry consortium that aims to adopt and improve the “Internet of Everything” in homes and industries.

Being also engaged in smartphones, both Samsung Corp and LG Corp are competitively incorporating smart appliances into their core business portfolios. Samsung Corp launched Samsung Smart Home, which offers a fully-connected system between appliances and smart TVs, smartphones and wearable watches. This system was launched in April 2014 in 11 countries including South Korea, the US and the UK in April 2014. LG Corp meanwhile launched its Home Chat service, which connects and communicates with LINE messenger, starting from the US in 2015. Still within the Asian region, Haier Group is also actively working towards smart appliances, especially air conditioners that connect with any iOS device. The drive towards smart appliances also encouraged smartphones manufacturer Beijing Xiao Mi td to launch smart air purifiers in December 2014 in partnership with one of China’s leading appliances company, Midea Group.

Elsewhere, Whirlpool Corp has collaborated with Nest to offer smart thermostats since 2014 on its application interfaces, starting with home laundry appliances. Whirlpool Corp is also expanding this offer to cooking appliances and refrigeration appliances. BSH Bosch & Siemens Hausgeräte meanwhile offers Home Connect, which controls and provides services for ovens and dishwashers.

The main focus for manufacturers will be how to attract early adaptors or tech-savvy consumers by addressing their needs and emphasising the convenience of smart appliances.



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