Next-Gen Appliances In Spotlight At CES

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Major appliance manufacturers demonstrated at International CES that they are ahead of the curve on “smart” home appliances, even though that curve is still several years away.

Companies including GE, Sears, Haier and Whirlpool, as well as LG and Samsung (see TWICE, Jan. 17), presented majap prototypes that can be controlled remotely from smartphones and can delay operations in response to signals from the power grid.

As LG’s product insight manager Patrick Steinkuhl told TWICE, the technology for smart appliances is there but manufacturers, retailers and consumers must wait for the infrastructure to catch up. Still to be worked out, he said, is the selection of an industry standard for networked home appliances, and the adoption of “smart grid” technology by the nation’s power utilities.

Among those laying the groundwork for smart, connected and cost-effective homes of the future is firsttime CES exhibitor GE, which presented an expansive suite of home-energy solutions within CES’s new Connected Home Appliances TechZone.

At the core of GE’s vision are its Brillion home network and Nucleus energy manager, which provides real-time data on energy use and costs. The Nucleus also helps consumers control their Brillion-enabled appliances — including select GE Profile dishwashers, refrigerators, ranges and laundry pairs — that can delay operation during high-cost, peak-power periods. GE is presently conducting three smart-appliance pilot programs in cooperation with local utilities in Kentucky, Massachusetts and Texas.

GE also demonstrated other green technologies at its Home of the Future exhibit, including a residential wind turbine and its WattStation electric-vehicle charging station, which received a 2011 CES Best of Innovations Design and Engineering Award within the Portable Power category.

Sharing space within the TechZone was Sears’ Kenmore brand, where VP Betsey Owens and brand management director Philip K. Philip showcased current and forthcoming majaps, including models that will be able to relay diagnostic data over the web for automated assessments and remedial responses.

Among returning CES exhibitors, Haier, China’s largest majap maker, demonstrated its four-year-old connected appliances program alongside more traditional CE fare at its Central Hall booth. Dubbed “Smart Life,” the wholehome system allows consumers to remotely access and control their refrigerators, air conditioners and laundry products via the Internet and mobile broadband. Available in China, the platform also controls lighting, curtains, multimedia entertainment, video conferencing, security alarms and environmental systems.

Haier holds multiple patents for home appliance networking and helped draft China’s national standards, including the ITopHome platform, which was submitted as an international standard.

Not everything on display was pie-in-the-sky. No. 1 majap manufacturer Whirlpool, which had long maintained a presence at CES, continued that tradition within the North Hall’s home-friendly Mommy TechZone, where it touted its upcoming 100th anniversary and its state-ofthe- art laundry line.

Representing the latter was the new top-load Vantage washer-dryer pair, which was previewed as a prototype at last year’s show. Now available at retail at a suggested price point of $2,000 each, the models feature LCD touchscreen interface, USB ports for firmware upgrades, 33 wash cycles and the ability to create custom cycles, an impeller-type agitator that that allows the washer to use 76 percent less water and 75 percent less power than pre-2004 top-loaders, and a metallic automotive finish.


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