Smart Appliances: The Revolution Has Begun
Manufacturers have begun to get serious about smart appliances—ranges, stoves, ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers with built-in features such as:
- Schedulers to pre-set (or change) the time of operation
- LED touch-panels to monitor and control operation directly, or even watch TV
- Smartphone or tablet remote monitoring and control
- Processors to support automation and advanced safety options
Some stand-alone appliances are labeled “smart” by manufacturers. But to be really useful, appliances must be able to communicate with other smart home integration systems, so they can be remotely coordinated by the homeowner for specific household needs.
The Smart Appliance market sector is young, and lags behind other home automation sectors. But it is likely to expand dramatically in the next few years. From the home automation perspective, further developments in smart appliances should aim for the following:
Safety. Appliances that generate heat as part of their operation (stoves and ranges, cooktops, dryers) pose real safety threats to children, forgetful elders, and even distracted adults. Smart features that minimize the risk of burns and fires for these appliances will benefit everyone.
Energy Savings. Scheduling energy hungry appliances to run overnight (when practical) will save real money in locations where differential time-of-day energy rates are in effect. See Power Management.
Convenience. Scheduling start and stop times for cooking and other housekeeping chores (and revising them remotely when needed) can be very useful for people who work outside of the home. For those who want a small TV in the kitchen, the refrigerator door may be the most convenient place.
Adaptive Needs. Smart appliances can benefit household members with special needs. Using the computational power of the System Processors, home integration specialists can devise innovative adaptations to meet these needs. Especially useful are circuits that would record and email to loved ones the time and frequency of use of refrigerators, ranges and cooktops, toaster ovens, and other appliances involved in the preparation of meals. See Aging-in-Place.
Connectivity. Remote access and control of smart appliances supports the above benefits, and facilitates creative combinations of home integration features to meet important needs.