September 1, 2014

LG’s Android Wants to Control Your Appliances

LG, in a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, showed examples of web-connected washing machines, refrigerators, ovens and a robot vacuum substantially improved with Android apps on tablets or smartphones.

“This is the first time the industry has actually had the infrastructure to support the technology for smart appliances,” said Patrick Steinkuhl, head of LG’s home appliances division.

Steinkuhl explained that Wi-Fi connections and apps would enable appliances to be much “smarter” than they are now. On an oven equipped with an Android tablet, you could download a recipe that instructs the oven to automatically change temperatures to provide optimal cooking results for a turkey, for example.

“Imagine an oven that is so smart that on the day of the big game it’s able to send you a text message saying ‘Hey, your roast is about done. Better get to the kitchen,” Steinkuhl said.

Another example he raised was a robot vacuum that could use an Android app to learn the precise dimensions of your home to know exactly which points have and haven’t been cleaned yet.

Apps could also improve energy efficiency in refrigerators, Steinkuhl added.

LG said it plans to sell some of these new appliances this year, but the company hasn’t yet disclosed a price. The question is – are they worth the money?

Whirlpool gets US Grant for Smart Appliances

Whirlpool has announced that it is the recipient of stimulus funds as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Smart Grid Investment Grant program.

The grant of $19.3 million over a two year period – which Whirlpool will match with its own investments – will help the company accelerate its work to deliver to consumers smart appliances that can connect with the smart grid. For example, the company recently announced that in 2011 it would deliver one million U.S. manufactured smart dryers capable of reacting intelligently to signals from the smart grid by modifying their energy consumption to save consumers money on their home electric bills. In markets where utilities offer variable or time-of-use pricing, these dryers could save a typical consumer $20 to $40 per year, while also benefitting the environment.

“The grants announced today are a great example of public and private partnerships that will create the next generation of energy saving solutions,” said Mike Todman, president, Whirlpool Corporation North America. “Smart appliances combined with time of use pricing offer consumers the greatest ability to save money on energy costs while benefiting the environment.”

In addition, the funds will complement the company’s commitment that by 2015 all of the electronically controlled appliances it produces – everywhere in the world – will be capable of receiving and responding to signals from the smart grid. This commitment is dependent on two important public-private partnerships: the development by the end of 2010 of an open, global standard for transmitting signals to and receiving signals from a home appliance; and appropriate policies that reward consumers, manufacturers and utilities for using and adding these new peak demand reduction capabilities.

GE to Launch New Line of Smart Appliances

In the first Quarter of 2009, GE will introduce a suite of ”smart” appliances.  Energy Manage-ment Enabled Appliances. These GE appliances will be enabled to receive a signal from their local utility. The appliances will receive the control message and react based on the appliance internal programming. It requires no consumer interaction.

”Now that ENERGY STAR® appliances are recognized by 75% of American consumers, the next step is to reshape when energy is being used,” said Kevin Nolan, Vice President Technology for GE Consumer & Industrial. ”Peak hour energy demand is growing faster than total energy demand. It is imperative that we begin to shift some of the energy load from peak hours to other parts of the day – – helping to avoid the need to build new power plants to meet the demand,” he explained.

For example, the automatic defrost feature on GE refrigerators is initiated by the internal electronics based on the number of refrigerator door openings and other input signals. If the refrigerator can delay the defrost cycle from occurring during peak energy usage hours, consumers will save money by paying for the same amount of energy later in the day when the rates are lower.

In addition to ”smart” refrigerators, GE will enable ranges, laundry pairs, dishwashers and microwave ovens to receive and respond to communications from the utility company. Consumers will be notified of a rate change or of critical peak pricing by the display on their appliances letting them know when higher rates are in effect. Appliances will be programmed to avoid energy usage during that time but consumers may choose to override the program – giving them ultimate control.