Household Appliances Go High-Tech Refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and ovens have gone high-tech. They're turning into smart computers. Some sport touchscreens and run custom functions. Others offer technicians remote diagnostic capabilities. Some devices under development will be able to connect wirelessly to the Web, electric grids, smartphones, and tablets. To see some of the products that Whirlpool (WHR), General Electric (GE), Electrolux (ELUXB:SS), LG Electronics (066570:KS), Samsung Electronics (005930:KS) and other appliance makers have released—or are developing for sale—check out our slide show.
LG ThinQ Washer and Dryer Maker: LG Electronics
Introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show this month, the machines' liquid crystal displays show daily, weekly, or monthly reports detailing their energy consumption and associated costs. The data will be accessible on smartphones and tablet PCs. LG Electronics (066570:KS) has yet to announce price and availability.
Geospring Maker: General Electric
This hybrid electric water heater operates only in heat-pump mode during periods of peak costs, which reduces energy usage by more than 80 percent, compared with a standard electric-tank water heater. It's one of GE's (GE) Profile appliances with Brillion technology that can automatically react to utility price signals from a smart meter, delaying or reducing usage until lower-cost, off-peak periods. The line of appliances will appear this fall in a pilot program in Houston.
OpenHome Connect Maker:
OpenHome Connect works with consumers' existing security systems, letting them remotely control lighting, door locks, and in the future, wireless appliances. The iControl
product, already available for about a year, comes free—although installation typically costs from $300 to $400 and there's a $40 monthly service fee.
Nucleus Home Energy Manager Maker:
About the size of an average phone charger, GE's (GE) Nucleus collects information from smart meters. It stores appliances' electricity use and estimated cost data for as long as three years. It can send the information to the consumer's PC or smartphone. The device will be used in a pilot on Martha's Vineyard.
Samsung RF4289 Refrigerator Maker: Samsung Electronics
This Samsung Electronics (005930:KS) refrigerator, slated for release in May, features a Wi-Fi-enabled, 8-inch, liquid crystal display screen that provides access to a series of applications such as recipes, weather information, and a calendar. Price: $3,500.
Electrolux Infinity I-Kitchen Refrigerator Maker: Electrolux
Available in Brazil, this Electrolux (ELUXB:SS) refrigerator comes with a touchscreen on the top door with a database of more than 600 recipes. Users can consult the display to check their calendars and run slide shows.
OpenHome Converge Maker:
iControl and hardware partners
To be sold by broadband service providers under their own brands, this interactive home-management and security system from iControl
lets consumers use a PC or iPhone to remotely change at-home lighting settings, arm and disarm a security system, and see who's entered through the door. In the future, washers, dryers, and other appliances will be added to the system. The system has been on the market for about a year. It comes free, though installation costs about $200 and there's a $35 monthly fee.
Whirlpool Maker: Whirlpool
Available since June, these Whirlpool (WHR) top-loading washing and drying machines each come with a liquid crystal display touchscreen and the industry's first USB port, which lets consumers upgrade programming to run more laundry cycles. In addition to preprogrammed cycles, users can create their own. Price: $1,999 each.
Indigo Touch Maker: Perceptive Automation
This free iPhone demo application lets a consumer remotely turn house lights on and off, adjust the thermostat, and control wirelessly connected appliances.
Smart Washer Maker:
Developed with Freescale Semiconductor
, Indesit's (IND:IM) demo washer can adjust its cycle starting time according to energy cost and green power availability, getting this information from the local utility via a ZigBee-enabled Internet connection.
Smart Life Maker: Haier
Currently available only in China, Haier's Smart Life system consists of refrigerators, air conditioners, and wine cellars that can be controlled remotely via phones and PCs. The full system can also manage lighting and multimedia entertainment systems, open and close curtains, and monitor security alarms.
Kenmore Connect Maker: Kenmore
Already built into many washers and dryers, Kenmore Connect (SHLD) can help technicians diagnose problems remotely. A consumer presses a sequence of buttons and holds a phone over the power button as the appliance emits fax-like transmission sounds that technicians can interpret remotely.