By Annie Rosemurgy | Photo from Shutterstock
You’ve probably seen commercials for refrigerators that allow you to check the fridge’s contents when you’re not at home, or have heard of (or have) an appliance you can control via an app on your smartphone. And at its most basic, that’s what a smart appliance is — an appliance that is built to allow connectivity with a smartphone.
“Some customers come into the store saying they don’t want anything to do with WiFi, apps or other techie features,” says Joshua Reno of Brothers Main Appliance. “They come in with a notion that smart appliances are more confusing to operate or more susceptible to having something break.”
However, it’s worth it to explore how “smart” appliances have become, because tasks at home (cooking, cleaning) can become even easier.
The oldest feature of these appliances remains one of their most important — the ability to self-diagnose a problem. When a smart device malfunctions, an error code is generated in the appliance’s main computer. In theory, this information allows the repair technician to have a good idea what the issue is before they even lay eyes on the machine. Instead of showing up for the appointment not knowing what’s wrong, the technician can instead order and bring appropriate replacement parts to the initial appointment, saving the customer precious time and money. Smart appliances can turn the headache of repair and maintenance appointments into a breeze.
THE SECOND GENERATION
More recent technological advancements in smart appliances are less focused on fixing broken systems and more on bringing a high level of convenience to consumers. Modern refrigerators and freezers are programmed to issue notifications to an app on your phone when temperature thresholds have been exceeded.
“Imagine being on vacation and receiving an alert on your phone that your freezer has lost power. You could potentially call a neighbor and have them come and rescue those frozen steaks you’ve been saving,” says Reno.
Ovens now come with built-in temperature probes, bringing down the stress of throwing a dinner party.
“With modern smart ovens it’s ‘set it and forget it,’” says Mary Kay Richards of Nonn’s Kitchen Bath & Flooring. “You put the roast in the oven, pre-program your phone to tell you once the internal temperature has been reached, and you can stay on the deck with your guests enjoying a glass of wine until dinner is done.”
Smart appliances are also a boon for busy families.
“If I leave work at five, I can preheat my oven before leaving the office, and it’s ready to go the minute I walk in the door,” says Richards. Smart washers and dryers will send alerts if items have been left in the basin for too long and will even adjust dryer cycles to modulate temperatures based on soil level and delicacy of fabrics.
These days, the sky is the limit for how elaborate the interfaces on smart appliances can be. Reno gives the example of a recent-model Samsung refrigerator that not only keeps perishables chilled but serves as a central hub for organizing and entertaining in the kitchen. Features such as an embedded television, white board that transmits a grocery list to your smartphone and a premier sound system are just some of the techie features that particular fridge has. The most recent generation of smart appliances are sleek, high style and multi- functional masterpieces.
EASE OF USE
Some consumers are wary of smart appliances because of a misconception that this technology comes at a cost. Not so, says Reno of Brothers Main. In fact, more than 50% of his showroom inventory is WiFi compatible and he estimates that this number will grow rapidly.
As smart appliances gradually become the standard in the market, more brands are building connectivity into their basic models. And, manufacturers have prioritized ease of use and intuitive operations.
“Most people quickly realize the advantages that smart appliances have for their lifestyles. [And] if you can use the appliance and you can use your smartphone, you can use a smart appliance,” says Richards.