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Latest breakthroughs in smart home appliances are unveiled at CES 2016

Samsung, Whirlpool and LG offer interactive refrigerators packed with hi-tech features

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 9:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:34pm

Could 2016 be the year that the internet of things (IoT) becomes bedded down in the automated smart home?

Analysts believe so, given the plethora of intelligent products unveiled this month at the global technology exhibition CES 2016 in Las Vegas.

The latest inventions from the world’s top consumer electronics brands are showing that “smart” products have moved beyond the gimmicky to the downright useful. As NextMarket Insights analyst Michael Wolf stated at the show: “Once consumers realise that these [new] technologies are just so much better than the old technology, they'll probably adopt them."

B.K. Yoon, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics, says the new batch of home appliances with IoT technology will improve the quality of life for consumers. “When things communicate with each other, and more so when things communicate with people based on the IoT, unimaginable value will be created.”

One of the latest breakthroughs is in refrigerators such as Samsung’s Family Hub, a handy multitasker which not only organises groceries, but home chores as well, and can even provide entertainment.

The fridge features a “virtual pinboard” on the door that houses and displays all communications on a 21.5-inch, full HD LCD resolution touchscreen screen. “As the refrigerator’s digital family command centre, the screen allows you to post, share and update calendars, pin photos, share kids’ works of art, and leave notes – all with the ease and convenience of your smartphone,” the brand explains.

Images captured by cameras inside the fridge capture its contents, and can be accessed by smartphone when you’re out shopping to check on what you need. And when you come home laden with groceries, the door can be opened slightly by placing a foot under a sensor. This model also offers options for music streaming to play through its built-in speaker or by connecting to Bluetooth wireless speakers.

A partnership with MasterCard enables householders to order grocery deliveries straight from the fridge. Samsung also has plans to incorporate Alexa, Amazon's cloud-connected artificial intelligence assistant, so the fridge can accept voice commands.

Also at CES, Whirlpool unveiled its new Smart Kitchen Suite that works with Nest and Amazon Dash Replenishment. The three-piece collection comprises a refrigerator, dishwasher and stove, which can be controlled remotely.

The bells and whistles include a Party Mode in the Smart French Door Refrigerator, which automatically speeds up ice production pending the arrival of guests. Lock Mode on the stove and dishwasher is designed as a safety measure for curious children, while Quiet Mode turns off beeps and alarms on the appliances when the family doesn’t wish to be disturbed.

Whirlpool also demonstrated its latest Interactive Kitchen of the Future concept, which features a smart backsplash and countertop that can do everything from can personalise a favourite recipe to measure the nutritional content in a packed lunch, or share breakfast ideas based on how much time a parent has to get their children out the door in the morning rush. The technology also aims to be able to anticipate and adapt to unforeseen changes in the household routine, such as caring for a sick child.

LG’s Signature fridge – unveiled at CES as part of the brand’s new Signature range – also has features which are not only smart but practical. Touch the black glass opaque panel on one of the doors, and it instantly becomes transparent so you can see what’s inside without opening the door. You can also open the door completely by passing your foot by a sensor at the fridge’s base.

Meanwhile, Cassia Networks took the prize for Best Connected Home Product at CES 2016, beating more than 2,000 company entrants with the Cassia Hub. This Bluetooth router has a stylish design that makes it look more like a decorative accessory. But the real breakthrough, says Felix Zhao, founder and CEO of Cassia Networks, is the product’s extended connectivity range to 1,000 feet, and giving users the ability to pair up to 22 Bluetooth devices with the hub.

“We believe the Cassia Hub will redefine how Bluetooth is used in the home,” he says. "When you pair Bluetooth's global market adoption with a device that solves two of Bluetooth's biggest challenges, Bluetooth becomes a true contender for a universal wireless communication standard for the Internet of Things."