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TCL's transparent fridge with touch on the door.

Appliances get smart in 2013

By Leigh D. Stark | 10:43 am 16/01/2013

While 2012 heralded the arrival of a few whitegoods with forms of internet connectivity, it wasn’t until the Consumer Electronics Show where we saw more companies embrace the idea of a smart appliance.

This year, we started our exploration of smart appliances with LG, as the company is betting big in this area. Intelligence is being applied to washing machines, dryers, fridges, and even the humble oven, as well as a new gadget for cleaning those suits, with many of these devices hitting stores this year.

For its smart appliances, LG is throwing WiFi and Near-Field Communication technology into quite a few of its devices, designed to make it just that much easier for your phone to talk to the appliances in your home.

Take the smart oven, for instance, which was one of our favourite gadgets at CES.

With this new oven, you can download recipes into your phone, add the ingredients to a shopping list, and then transfer the steps and cooking instructions directly to your oven, which will setup the temperature and cooking times for you.

From what we understand, LG will even send a message to your phone when the cooking is done, and allow you to remotely switch off the oven, so it doesn’t burn your food.

You can’t switch it on remotely – that would be dangerous – but this idea of being able to monitor the cooking status from anywhere could be useful to many people.

Laundry machines with these smart functions will work in similar capacities, allowing you to switch off your washer or dryer from your smartphone, while also offering the ability to download new programs into the appliance. If, for instance, there’s a new washing cycle that cleans socks better, you can essentially upgrade your washing machine, rather than just let it stay the same for years on end.

A steaming machine also grabbed our attention, which offers up the ability to steam clean your clothes. The easiest way for us to describe this product, which LG calls the “Styler” (above) is miniature version of a dry cleaner, even though the technology isn’t quite the same, from what we’re told.

This little digital cabinet removes wrinkles, adds a pleasant scent, and dries clothes, though we’re not quite sure if it will clean them in the same way a good dry cleaning service can.

A new internet fridge has been developed by LG which, as mentioned previously, may be able to order more food once integrated with local retailers.

Samsung is taking a different approach with its whitegoods, and while the company is looking into net connectivity for appliances, we didn’t see a lot of emphasis on these products for release this year.

The company already has an intelligent air conditioning unit, with the appliance reaching out and talking to your smartphone to control this in your home.

Washing machines with smarts will be similarly controllable and possibly upgradeable, but little else was discussed.

Samsung's smart oven.

Meanwhile, the smart refrigerator released at the end of last year in Australian certainly made a splash here, with an 8 inch LCD making this fridge a place where people in your family could leave digital notes, as well as using it to see recipes and stream music over services like Pandora.

One other fridge boasted a feature we’ve never heard of – anti-virus protector anyone? – but Samsung did show us an oven that could communicate with a smartphone, though wouldn’t say if or when this product would be hitting stores this year.

Chinese manufacturer TCL surprised us with its own internet fridge, and a very different take on one, we should add.

While LG is looking for ways to connect your phone, and Samsung will let you stream music and leave notes when you grab a drink from the fridge, TCL has a different vision with a transparent fridge.

Sitting pretty opposite a digital window, the TCL refrigerator concept features a transparent screen where the main compartment door would be, allowing you to not only see inside your fridge, but see the time and weather displayed on the see through door.

A smaller screen sits inside this door, which will show off recipes, as well as let you order more of various food items.

You can even check out how much power your fridge is using with an animated energy monitor that will display on the transparent LCD.

Overall, it’s very cool, but because it’s a concept, we have no idea if or when TCL plans on introducing this fridge to the masses.

Leigh D. Stark traveled to CES as a guest of LG Electronics Australia.

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