4 min read

Are Your Home Appliances Analyzing You?

Home appliance manufacturers have latched onto the promise of IoT, adding smart sensors to help consumers track their appliances. Will the data generated and the analytics enabled end up changing how appliances are made in the future?

As the internet of things (IoT) has evolved, we have seen connected devices trickle into our homes in the form of thermostats, doorbells, and security systems, but the promise of a smart home is not a reality for most consumers. In years past, technology-driven appliances usually equated to a web panel on the fridge door that added very little to the homeowner experience, other than an increased price tag.

Now manufacturers have taken appliances beyond just web devices, making them into integrated and analytical devices that can yield valuable data and information for manufacturers and consumers.

GE is introducing a dishwasher that can notify a consumer on his smart device that his dishwasher is having an issue. The dishwasher can then be shut it off remotely before the dishwasher overflows or causes other problems. The device can detect clogged drains, loading issues, and more, and notify the homeowner. The dishwasher can also analyze its own performance and how well it is cleaning dishes. Internal analytics can also assure appliances are running at maximum performance. Some of the appliances can also communicate issues to the manufacturer and send alerts to buy a new water filter or schedule maintenance for an appliance.

GE's water heaters also enable consumers to save money by shutting off their water heaters when they are not at home and turning them on before they return. This saves on the costs of keeping water hot when no one will be using it. The GE smart washer and dryer will analyze a consumer's laundry by telling them when clothes are left in the washer, if the machine needs more soap, or if clothes are sitting in the dryer.

GE is also integrating its appliances with other smart home technology such as Amazon's Alexa. Select oven models will incorporate an Alexa capability to preheat and turn off the oven remotely via any connected device. A consumer can then preheat the oven on the way home from the office or store to get dinner started faster. GE is also integrating with Nest smoke detectors that can shut off the oven if it is producing too much smoke from cooking. It can also turn off the detector in case of a false alarm.

GE competitor LG is also introducing smart technology to its new appliances with remote capabilities and appliance alerts for smart energy consumption.Whirlpool is also marketing smart appliances with some integration to other smart home apps.

While the appliance market is improving its capabilities, the user experience for the smart home still needs some revision. All of these smart home capabilities require individual apps managed independently, filling up the storage capacity on consumers' already overloaded devices. They also need to be updated and connected to Wi-Fi to be effective. If Wi-Fi is down or compromised by too many devices, the alerts may not be received in a timely fashion. For consumers that want different brands of appliances, the management of these apps and their requirements may be overwhelming and time consuming.

There is also the possibility of security issues if these applications and appliances are breached and hackers take control of consumer devices without their knowledge as in the recent denial-of-service attacks involving consumer televisions and laptop cameras. Hacking of these devices could cause issues such as appliance malfunctions or safety monitoring problems that could lead to property damage. Since smart appliances typically come with a higher price tag, it remains to be seen how much market share they will capture given that appliance replacement cycles measure in the years.

What do you think? Are you ready to buy a new smart appliance? Are you using one now? Is it helpful? Are you concerned about some of these new capabilities in appliances and security risks in the homes?