When your house talks, do you listen? If you're not listening yet, get ready because home automation is happening whether we realize it or not. Can you even remember the first appliance you got with a glowing digital clock? Probably not but my kitchen lights up at night without any Christmas ornaments. The microwave, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator and even my old fashion, under the upper cabinet radio/clock all glow in the dark telling me what time it is.
For the most part we ignore these lights but some of these appliances also talk, well at least they beep at me. The microwave beeps when it’s done cooking whatever, and that’s probably a good reminder. The same is true of the stove if I remember to set a timer, and when I don’t we might have to change dinner plans because the food isn’t recognizable so no one’s going to eat it.
The latest talking appliance is my refrigerator. That incessant beeping starts if the door doesn’t close all the way. While I don’t like the sound, I can’t disagree with the design because it’s helping me save energy and keep my food cold. The same technology that powers our smart phones is moving into our home appliances and changing how we use our homes … so pretty soon we'll be talking about smart homes!
Imagine Appliances With More Home Automation
Refrigerators are for keeping food fresh although the food we buy, and how we prepare it has changed a lot over the years. Consider how much time we already save with more food ready to pop into the microwave, and that's just the beginning of home automation in the kitchen.
When you pull a bag of frozen vegetables out of the freezer, the bag tells you how long to cook the vegetables on the stove, or if you live in my house, the microwave. But what about fresh vegetables with no packaging or instructions? That happened to me recently and my husband's traveling so the iPad which usually sits in the corner of the kitchen was missing.
My laptop was 2 floors away so okay, I'm resoureful and I rinsed off the asparagus and put them in the microwave. I started with a minute, tested them and cooked them for a second minute but I don't always get it right. Can you imagine a microwave where you don't have to know the power setting (I never bother) and minutes?
What if I could tell the microwave I was putting asparagus in and wanted them cooked al dante? Or maybe the microwave could scan what was inside and using image recognition (that's technology Google is developing to give you Google images, collected from millions of websites), identify the vegetables as asparagus? Your microwave could also store your cooking preferences, and even learn from how you program it the way the Nest thermostat does today, and yikes … Google just bought Nest.
So let's look at what's possible today versus sometime in the future.
Home Automation With an Internet or Net Refrigerator
Moving beyond the clocks and timers we've forgotten are there, refrigerators now come with Internet capability but what does that mean? Some of the refrigerators basically have a computer integrated in them with a touch screen, hard drive to store your information, speakers to really talk (not beep) to you and a connection to the Internet directly or through your home's network. That means you can look up recipes on the Internet and find out how long to cook asparagus, through your … refrigerator!
But wait, it can do more and we haven't seen anything yet.
Once you've got a computer inside your refrigerator (LG's refrigerator with Smart ThinQ™ technology), there are applications to make it easier to do whatever … it is you do in the kitchen. It begins to look and feel like your smart phone and you can access these apps from your smart phone. So now when you want to stop at the grocery store on your way home from work, you can check to see if you need more milk and that's pretty cool.
You can learn what food you've got, what's about to expire, and depending on the application, it will tell you what ingredients you have to buy to get dinner done.
These refrigerators are new with versions being offered by LG, Samsung, and Whirlpool, who are leading the way in home automation. They're not cheap with prices starting at $1999 and going up to $15,000 but neither are our smart phones. What's really exciting is that now that these refrigerators are on the market, lots of other companies can create new applications and that's where it's going to get exciting.
Already some applications exist for writing memos, a calendar you can use for meal planning and managing recipes … plus of course the apps you'd expect like weather reports and music.