Back in the 1960s, the Jetsons, a television cartoon series family, lived lives enhanced by automation. They had flying cars that didn’t need drivers, just a destination; and their appliances prepared food and announced when it was ready.
More than 50 years later, we wonder if we’re edging closer to that automated lifestyle as smart appliances become more prevalent, with shortcuts and features that anticipate your needs or allow you to control them from a distance. However, smart homes – where your appliances talk to an automated assistant, to you or to each other – aren’t as prevalent as experts expected.
Your washer and dryer are getting smarter by the minute with touch-screen interfaces, notifications and smartphone applications. For instance, there are now models which allow you to monitor the progress of a load from afar by using an app that will also notify you when the load is done – no more constant checking and guesswork!
Some models have settings geared toward various types of stains, alert you when your dryer vent needs cleaning and remind you that your detergent is running low. You can even program them to clean your clothes during off-peak electricity hours, helping you save money on energy while helping to save the planet.
You can chill out today, knowing that your refrigerator is doing its work better than ever. For instance:
You can stay hydrated by choosing a model with a self-filling pitcher of water; sensors tell the fridge when it needs topping up, so you can keep the cold water coming during dinner.
Others have sensors that fill your glass, no matter what size it is, without spilling and can also provide the right amount you need for a recipe; just plug in the information and your measuring cup won’t runneth over!
Or what about a refrigerator – or one of its compartments – that can switch from fridge to freezer, depending on your preference? It’s handy for berry-picking season or fishing trips, or when you’re planning a big party and preparing food in advance.
If you like to have a refrigerator that works for you, why not check out a model with an ice-cream maker or a coffeemaker? They’re on the market today.
But why stop there? Dance around your kitchen with the speakers that are attached to your fridge; a Bluetooth connection also allows you to hear tunes or podcasts from your smartphone while you cook. Multi-tasking at its best!
An app on your smartphone can provide you with both information and control for some models. You’ll get alerts if your refrigerator door is left ajar, monitor your power usage and adjust the temperature so the fridge uses less power during peak/expensive periods.
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When you’re worried about getting dinner on the table after work, but also want to play with your children or take care of other chores, an app for your stove/oven can be your best friend. Simply place the dish in the oven and you can instruct your stove/oven remotely to defrost, bake, broil and roast; when the food is cooked, some models will automatically move on to a warming mode.
Timers are also useful for remote cooking. It can be turned on and off and allows you to check the progress of your dish, even projecting the approximate time your meal will be ready to serve. When the time elapses, you may get a text or an audible alarm on your smartphone to alert you.
If you’re not sure what to cook for dinner in the first place, some apps come equipped with a recipe feature that allows you to consider options. Some models even allow you to adjust recipes to suit the size of the crowd you’ll be feeding! When you’ve prepared the meal and its oven ready, the app will set the temperature and the cooking time.
After dinner, if you want to clean your oven, your app may also allow for doing so remotely – usually on the standard setting.
All of this convenience sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? So, why haven’t more people tapped into these products or connected them to an automated assistant? In mid-2016, Forrester Research noted that only six per cent of U.S. homes had a smart home device; the company projected that only 15 per cent will be on board by 2021.
One reason is cost. For many people, the extra convenience isn’t worth the price tag, since many of these features make an appliance more expensive. Nor are the appliances perfect yet; consumers want to wait until the glitches are worked out and till perceived-value is being added.
In addition, there’s an assumption that people may want to be able to connect all of their appliances to a central automated assistant, but there isn’t yet an industry standard protocol as companies battle for the supremacy of their devices.
We’ve been dreaming of a smart home (including appliances) that runs itself, but for the most part we have glorified remote control for appliances instead.
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