"Smart Home" Appliances Expand Apps, Ramp Up Competition

"Smart Home" Appliances Expand Apps, Ramp Up Competition

Connected refrigerators, ovens, and washer-dryers offer another direction for the burgeoning app market to expand, as well as a new field for tech rivals to compete in.

Manufacturers LG and Samsung unveiled plans to link labor-saving appliances to smartphones and tablets at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, turning the everyday household into an interconnected ecosystem.

The South Korea-based company offers a library of 1,400 apps for its connected televisions, and plans to incorporate the same strategy in its upcoming appliance line, broadening the market for app makers beyond the smartphone.

David Steel, executive vice president of Samsung’s North American strategic market, said in a CNET interview the company will follow-up its successful television apps with offerings for every appliance in the home. For example, Samsung’s Wi-Fi connected refrigerator will soon get a “Grocery Manager” app, which will allow users to drag and drop food items into a diagram of the appliance on their smartphone or tablet screen, then enter expiration dates and other data.

Steel said the next generation of Samsung’s connected appliances will offer a wide variety of apps and seamlessly communicate with the company’s smartphones. For example, users will be able to start and stop laundry cycles on their connected washing machine with a smartphone app, while other apps could allow users to play Pandora radio and search for recipes on Epicurious through their refrigerator.

Samsung also plans to hold contests offering cash prizes for developers who create apps for connected household appliances, encouraging growth in a new area of app creation.

LG is also making forays into the smart home. The company debuted a connected refrigerator at CES that allows people to check expiration dates on food stored inside with their smartphone. The LG refrigerator will also “talk” to a future line of LG ovens, enabling users to choose a recipe, find ingredients and set oven cook time and temperature without taking a step.

The connected home is the next field of competition for device makers and platforms, and even technology giants Google and Apple have set their sights on it. Google chair Eric Schmidt at CES alluded to plans to move Android beyond smartphones, creating a platform to network the devices and appliances people use every day.

Apple’s latest patent filing revealed big plans for the voice assistant Siri, revealing how it could be used in different devices, appliances, and services. One custom installer of smart home systems is already using Siri to control thermostats, lighting and home entertainment systems, showing how Apple’s voice assistant could soon be on the forefront of smart home technology.

As people demand more connection in every area of their lives, the appliances and home systems may soon be included in their network to streamline and ease everyday tasks. Connectivity is expanding to household appliances, opening up opportunities for platform makers and app developers.

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