The omnipresent wireless/cellular Internet access is giving rise to a slew of new "connected" devices in the home. In addition to your computer and DirecTV receiver, now your refrigerator, dishwasher and washer/dryer can be hooked up to the worldwide Web, giving you remote access to features, diagnostics, calendars, news and media — all while running more efficiently. "There has been a definite influence by the Internet on appliance features," says Mike Heintz, president of University Electric. "Connectivity is affecting the way manufacturers are making these home devices." Here are a few benefits of getting connected.
According to Heintz, one of the most beneficial features in the current lineup of connected appliances is diagnostics. "Let's say a consumer finds that the refrigerator isn't cold," poses Heintz. "It could be the compressor, evaporator, fan or thermostat. The consumer calls the factory and the factory sends a signal to the refrigerator, which in turn tells the factory that a fan is not working. They send a tech out to your house with a new fan. With one call, the product is fixed and with zero guesswork. This not only saves the homeowner valuable time, but also money as the tech only has to make one trip."
LG's latest SmartThinQ appliances ($1,399 to $3,499), for one, feature Smart Diagnosis, which tells the technicians what the problem is before they even arrive at your house. Miele also uses Wi-Fi to link your enabled appliance to the company's monitoring center. If a fault occurs, Miele's client service center is notified and they will contact you to fix the issue, a refreshing change of pace.
Aside from service and diagnostics, one of the biggest pros of a connected appliance is that you can monitor and control it from afar. How many times have you forgotten about the wash, only to find clothes reeking of mildew upon discovery? With remote monitoring, this could be a thing of the past.
Samsung, for example, has a washer/dryer ($1,599) equipped with Smart Care, which allows you to see where you are in the cycle from your smartphone app and sends you a signal when the load is complete. These remote apps are especially convenient if your laundry system is in the garage or in a larger home where you can't hear the alert. "One concern about running appliances when away, however, is the danger of fire or flood," says Heintz. Miele addresses this by putting a device in the system that shuts off water if a leak is detected.
Say you want to go to the grocery store after the gym, but can't remember if you have salad dressing at home. Instead of running back to check, LG's Smart Access lets you check the status of your fridge contents remotely via your iOS or Android device.
This remote functionality even extends to things like vacuum cleaners. So you didn't have time to vacuum before you picked up your in-laws from the airport? With a smartphone and Wi-Fi connection, you can remotely schedule LG's HOM-BOT ($600) to clean your home before they get there. "Internet connectivity is about features that make life easier for the homeowner," says John White, executive vice president of appliances for BrandSource. "The ability to access everything via your iPhone or Android is a convenient and growing trend."
Before you begin an integrated home project, think about what you want, from entertainment to security to convenience features.
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