The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), owned by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) now re-christened as Consumer Technology Association (CTA), illustrates how the market landscape is evolving in terms of how the overall market, products, companies and consumers are becoming technology oriented and connected. Based on what was presented at CES 2016, it could be argued that the term ‘Internet of everyThing (IoT)’ should be changed to ‘Internet In Everything (IiE)’ as companies are getting crazier putting internet into every product they get hands on.
Thankfully, as witnessed at CES this year, home appliance makers are not just adding connectivity in their appliances. There were some product launches such as Whirlpool’s Easy Fridge which focused less on connectivity or technology and more attention on how best one could use the fridge - providing flexibility in shelving and storing compatibility, as simple as that. Home appliances are no more a dumb product located somewhere in your kitchen, garage or basement. Now they are considered more as technology devices which are also getting a good uplift in style, color, material, design, engineering and other aspects. Appliances are becoming a statement of style, which should match not just with the kitchen and home décor but also with individual lifestyles.
Due to wider adoption of smartphones, internet access, familiarity with touch controls and popularity of a ‘world of apps’ and technology savviness amongst consumers, appliances are becoming mainstream and becoming smarter, intelligent and connected, and therefore more technology oriented. Home appliance makers who understand this have changed their mind-set and no longer think like a manufacturer simply producing what its dealer/retailer wants. Rather, they now work at a faster pace to keep up with key trends just as technology companies must do in order to be successful.
It appears, though in subtle manner, that such a transformation started at CES 2016. It would not be surprising if by CES 2020, home appliance companies evolve and start to market a wider range of technology products rather than just major and small home appliances. Home robotics would just be one market for expansion. Appliance OEMs now see themselves marketing a wider range of technologically-based devices providing complete solutions for the home, not simply selling basic home appliances.
CES is supposed to be a launching platform for companies to exhibit their latest innovations. Unfortunately, on the home appliances front there were no ground-breaking innovations at CES 2016, except a few expected new product launches. So for the home appliance market, CES 2016 was less about new innovations but more about product upgrades. Nevertheless, appliances are advancing with enhanced features and options, intelligence and connectivity, more efficient use of energy, reduced water consumption and generating less noise. As Tim Baxter, President & COO, Samsung America, states ‘It is all about solving consumer pain points’.
Some examples of ‘not so new’ innovations in home appliances at CES 2016 were:
- Samsung’s ‘Family Hub’ fridge has a large 21.5 inch touchscreen built into one door which acts as an entertainment and infotainment hub in the kitchen. It can also order groceries online and has interior cameras that help take stock of inventory inside.
- LG’s Signature fridge incorporates innovative touch control which allows the consumer to knock on its glass door to turn on interior LEDs giving the user a quick view of what’s inside without having to open the door. Another use of sensor technology was demonstrated where a person walking toward the fridge with hands full, unable to open the door, can simply swipe their foot towards the bottom of the fridge to open the door.
- Samsung’s ‘AddWash’ front-loading washer makes it possible to add small clothes in middle of the main cycle through a small hatch on the door.
- LG’s ‘Twin Wash’ laundry system pairs a regular front-load washer with an additional small washer built into the pedestal below (also called ‘Sidekick’ unit), where you can simultaneously wash large clothes in the main top drum and small or delicate items in the small bottom drum.
- Samsung’s ‘Activewash’ top-load washer comes with a sink compartment on top for handwashing or pre-soaking select items.
- LG’s Whisen Dual Air Conditioner has two cold air outlets that are controlled individually. It allows consumers to control the strength and direction of air individually based on how many people are there in the room and where they are located avoiding wasted energy. This system also comes with an air-purifier and air-humidifier.
- LG’s CordZero canister vacuum uses motorized wheels which follow you as you move throughout your home and even turns when you turn.
- Sleep Number’s Smart Bed (mattress) which tracks sleep now includes anti-snore and voice-command features.
- Other features exhibited include: Samsung’s Four-Door fridge; Whirlpool’s giant size Washer, LG’s Door-in-Door fridge; Whirlpool’s compact and ventless washer and dryer pair; Marathon’s All-in-one combo washer/dryer; GoSun’s Solar powered stove; Smart Padlocks; Panasonic’s High-Power Blender; Smart Ceiling Fan; appliances with black stainless steel or a graphite finish; touch on metal technology; and appliance companies offering their own smart home monitoring system.
Another important observation from CES 2016 which is difficult to understand is premium range of appliances such as refrigerators costing more than US$ 3,000 that are launched without having full connectivity features. Appliances are designed to last for 10-15 years. Selling a high-end appliance that does not have connectivity dictates the product will become obsolete within next two to three years.
To summarize, home appliances are becoming smarter, connected and more efficient. Appliance manufacturers are attempting to transform themselves from a manufacturing to a technology company. Innovation is the new mantra – keep innovating, faster and more consistently.
Read additional CES 2016 highlights and insights from the IHS analyst team, Spotlights and Searchlights at CES 2016