By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Electrolux and telecom provider Ericsson have formed a joint venture to explore products and services for what the companies call the "Networked Home."
The goal of the two Swedish firms is to develop home appliances that can be networked and connected to external providers of information and services over the Internet.
"We want to make people's lives more convenient and enjoyable by combining household appliances and the resources of the Internet," said Michael Treschow, Electrolux's CEO/president.
"When consumers walk through the door of an Electrolux retailer in the future," Treschow stated, "they will find appliances that can communicate with the consumers, with other appliances, and with the outside world through the Internet."
For example, retailers selling a freezer would be able to offer online supervision of temperature and preventive maintenance for the appliance as part of the sale.
Electrolux has already developed futuristic appliance concepts such as the Screenfridge, which features a computer screen mounted on the door of a refrigerator, and a robot vacuum cleaner that scoots along the floor under its own power.
The prototype Screenfridge -- shown by the company's Frigidaire Home Products subsidiary at this year's Kitchen/Bath Industry Show -- contains a home shopping terminal so users can place online orders directly from the refrigerator.
"The kitchen is the natural place for online food shopping," said Ericsson president Kurt Hellstrom, "and provides the means to reach new groups of Internet users."
The first products from the joint venture are expected within a year, the companies said.
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