Appliances get smart

Both Maytag and General Electric will pursue joint ventures with Microsoft, which drives the Universal Plug-and-Play initiative, to develop smart home appliances. But it's still in the early stages of development.

"Home networking is all about getting control and convenience back to us," says Greg Sullivan, product manager for Microsoft's Windows group. "We'll still have all this stuff to do but we can do it on our own terms."

The first product featuring the underlying UPnP technology will be the next consumer version of Windows, expected to ship in the second half of this year, Sullivan says.

In one scenario served up by Maytag CEO Lloyd Ward, consumers could conceivably watch a cooking program on an interactive TV set and send the recipe to the refrigerator, which in turn would shoot off a list of ingredients to your handy online grocer.

"The kitchen in our view is the heart of the home," says Terry Dunn, general manager of global communications for GE Appliances. "People are spending money on premium brands to make a fashion statement in the home."

So when will products such as the Web-enabled refrigerator with detachable Web pad actually come to consumer fruition?

"We're showing these products right now -- these are real products," Dunn says. "We could do it this year if we wanted to."

The key component to this new generation of devices is consumer research, according to Dunn. "We want to understand how consumers interact with this technology," he says.

Sunbeam has created a subsidiary called Thalia Products -- Thalia stands for Thinking and Linking Intelligent Appliances. The products are based on Home Linking Technology. HLT appliances will be able to work with UPnP appliances, according to Sunbeam representatives.

The kitchen isn't the only room that's gaining intelligence. The Thalia TimeHelper alarm clock acts as a household helper that can send and receive commands to and from other smart products like the Smart Sunbeam coffeemaker. When you readjust your alarm clock, the TimeHelper resets the clocks on all connected appliances.

The HomeHelper Kitchen Console is essentially a monitor equipped with a built-in modem. The screen displays all the appliances around the house that are linked to it. The HandHelper personal digital assistant is the portable version.

So what do you do when your appliances become smarter than you?

"In my opinion, no appliance will ever be smarter than me," Dunn says.

Microsoft's Sullivan takes a different view: "We'll always be able to unplug them."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eileen Smith

PC World

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?