By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Whirlpool returned to International CES this month to demonstrate its Centralpark Connection refrigerator (model GD5VVAXT), whose plug-and-play platform allows consumers to update and power multiple CE devices through its door.
The unit, a CES Innovations 2008 Design and Engineering Award honoree in the home appliances product category, is currently sold at Best Buy and hhgregg, and carries a suggested retail of $2,000. It is presently compatible with the CEIVA digital photo frame, also available at those chains for a suggested retail of $249, although Whirlpool demonstrated additional concepts at the show, including the Clio Vu Web tablet, Cozi family organizational software, Brandmotion's iPod speaker system and the Quartet Qnote Message Center.
Whirlpool described the fridge-as-digital-hub concept as "a natural step in appliance evolution," as more than 30 percent of notebook computer, digital photo frame and digital music player owners currently use their devices in the kitchen, according to research conducted for the company by Forrester.
"We are proud to be back at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show with a diverse grocery list of new, soon-to-market partners," said Phil Pejovich, VP of Whirlpool Refrigeration, North America. "Depending on each family's needs, there is a Centralpark Connection device to help every Whirlpool brand consumer accomplish more with his or her day — from keeping photo displays fresh to organizing family activities."
Details on the Centralpark Connection-compatible prototypes follow:
Brandmotion iPod speaker system: Brandmotion, a current "Made for iPod" Apple licensee and authorized iPod accessory manufacturer, created a self-charging, high-quality iPod docking system with dual stereo speakers for use with the centralpark connection. The docking station is specifically designed for use in the kitchen with four large membrane-type buttons for easy use and cleanup. The docking station is manufactured to securely hold any size iPod and withstand the frequent opening and closing of the freezer door.
Clio Vu by Data Evolution: Clio Vu, a convertible tablet computer utilizing the Clio's familiar, award-winning 180-degree SwingTop design, can help clear refrigerators of sticky notes, traditional notepads and calendars while keeping grocery lists and schedules organized using the touchscreen, keypad or handwriting device. Equipped with Wi-Fi, the Clio Vu also allows users to watch movies and look up recipes online while working in their kitchen. The unit comes preloaded with Cozi family organizational software (see below), and can be removed easily from the Centralpark Connection digital hub for portable applications.
Cozi Family Organizational Software: Cozi is a free software and Web service that helps consumers manage their schedules, create shopping and to-do lists, organize household chores and stay in communication. When used with the centralpark connection, Cozi is able to provide easy-to-use solutions right on the refrigerator. In addition to Cozi's calendar, photo and messaging features, Whirlpool consumers can add items to the Cozi shopping list in the kitchen and then receive the list as a text message on their mobile phone while out shopping.
Quartet Qnote Message Center by Acco Brands: The Quartet Qnote Message Center enables families to share and communicate messages from the kitchen. Quartet, maker of visual solutions for more than 50 years, designed the Qnote Message Center specifically for the Centralpark Connection. Made of durable tempered glass, the Message Center provides a dry-erase writing surface and ambient surface illumination, plus interchangeable templates for customizable layouts. Organizational features include a digital clock with date and timer, and a sliding storage drawer.
Retail launch dates and suggested retails will be announced online at www.whirlpool.com/centralpark as they become available throughout the year, Whirlpool said.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.