Market Insight

Home Appliance (and IoT) Insights from CES 2016 - Topline Conclusions

February 03, 2016

Dinesh Kithany Dinesh Kithany Lead Industry Analyst, Wireless Power and Power Supply

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Topline Conclusions:

  1. Innovation is the new mantra – keep innovating, faster and more regularly.
  2. Home appliances are getting smarter connected and more efficient
  3. Appliance makers appear more confident, readily launching a wide range of smart and connected appliances that were conceptual just a few years ago
  4. Appliance makers have started to be transforming themselves from being traditional manufacturing companies to thinking like leading-edge technology companies. They would soon be marketing wider consumer electronic devices than just home appliances/white-goods.
  5. Chinese appliance makers are getting more innovative and aggressive, in order to increase their footprint into U.S. market, exhibiting their full range of appliances and other consumer devices, like TVs, smartphones, smart watches and robots. Sooner appliance markers,  who are transforming themselves into technology companies would also be content providers in terms of what else beyond other device status or home automation hub to display on say their refrigerator display unit, or cooker-tops or smart TV, etc.

Key Insights on home appliance market:

Based on various demonstrations and announcements made at CES 2016, especially in the North Hall, I would re-christen the term “Internet of everyThing (IoT)” to “Internet In Everything (IiE),” as companies are now excitedly including Internet connectivity into every product they can.

Thankfully home appliance makers are not just adding connectivity in their appliances. There were some product launches that focused on simplicity. For example, Whirlpool’s new Easy Fridge focused less on connectivity or technology and paid more attention on how best one could use the fridge and how to provide flexibility in shelving and storing compatibility.

Home appliances are no longer dumb products taking up space in consumers’ kitchens, garages or basements. Now they are becoming actual technology devices, with a greater accent on style, colour, material, design, engineering and other product aspects. Appliances have become a way to make a style statement, not simply matching your kitchen and home décor, but also matching your lifestyle.

Due to wider adoption of smartphones, easier access to the Internet, more familiarity with touch controls, the growing popularity of apps and the rise in technology savviness among consumers, appliances are getting smarter connected, and more tightly focused on leveraging the latest technology advances.

Growing numbers of home appliance makers understand this evolution in appliance design and have started to give a different perspective to their business. They no longer solely think about what dealers and retailers want, but instead are thinking like technology companies, in order to support the actual needs of consumers. In fact, I would not be surprised if by CES 2020, home appliance companies move beyond major and small home appliances and start to market a wider range of technology products, including home robotics.

CES is supposed to be the launch platform where companies exhibit their latest innovations. Unfortunately on the home appliances front, there were no ground-breaking innovations, except a few expected new product launches. The announcements were less about new innovations, and more about product upgrades; nevertheless, appliance features and options are improving, as products become smarter and better connected. They are also getting more efficient using less energy, using less water and generating less noise. As Tim Baxter, president of Samsung America strategies said, “It is all about solving consumer pain points.”

Here are some examples of not-so-new innovations in home appliances at CES 2016:

  • Samsung’s Family Hub fridge features a large 21.5-inch touchscreen built into its single door that acts as an entertainment and infotainment hub in kitchen, allows ordering of groceries online, and provides internal cameras to help consumers take stock of what’s inside.
  • LG’s Signature fridge boasts an innovative touch control, so consumers can knock on the glass door to illuminate interior LEDs and get a quick view of what’s inside, without having to open the door. Plus if you walk towards the fridge with your hands full, you can swipe your foot toward the bottom of the fridge to open the door.
  • Samsung’s AddWash front-loading washer allows you to add additional clothing during the wash cycle, through a small hatch in the door.
  • LG’s Twin Wash laundry system pairs a regular front-load washer with an additional small washer built into the pedestal below (also called Sidekick unit), so you can simultaneously wash large clothes in top main top drum and smaller in the small bottom drum.
  • Samsung’s Activewash top-load washer comes with a top sink compartment for handwashing or pre-soaking selected items.
  • LG’s Whisen Dual Air Conditioner – with a built-in air-purifier and air-humidifier -- features two cold air outlets controlled individually, which allows consumers to control the strength and direction of air, based on how many people are there in the room and where they are located avoiding wastage.
  • LG’s CordZero canister vacuum uses motorized wheels that follow you as you move throughout your home and even turns when you turn.
  • Sleep Number’s Smart Bed (mattress) tracks sleep, with anti-snore and voice-command features.
  • Other products shown at CES include Samsung’s Four-Door fridge; Whirlpool’s giant size washer, LG’s Door-in-Door fridge; Whirlpool’s compact and ventless washer and dryer pair; Marathon’s All-in-one combo washer/dryer; GoSun’s solar-powered stove; Panasonic’s high-power blender; smart padlocks and smart ceiling fans; appliances with black stainless steel or a graphite finish; touch on metal technology; and not to miss appliance companies having their own smart home monitoring system.


Key Insights beyond home appliance market: 

This year, for the first time, many automobile giants exhibited smart, connected and autonomous driverless cars. Given the enthusiasm from automakers, consumers and the media, the age of driverless cars now seems like it’s not too far away.

Many automakers also focused on display technology. They showed how displays can enhance the smart driving -- and smart living -- experience, as the dashboard would also monitor and control aspects of one’s life beyond the confines of the car. The smart dashboard could very well become the smart hub controlling not only your car, but also other smart and connected devices in your life.

TV technology used to be what everybody flocked to see at CES, but this year augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), robotics and drones were the heroes. The television industry this year was all about better quality picture (e.g., OLED and SUHD), larger size displays (up to 170 inches), smarter and connected TVs (it seems all TVs will soon be smart) and now also thinner, if not further curved or flexible.

Connectivity is the new mantra. Irrespective of consumers’ concerns about owning a connected appliance, or whether they feel the need one now, or whether they even fully understand the practical use, convenience and peace of mind these connected appliances offer, all new appliances will soon have connectivity as a basic feature.

Note: It would be easier for manufacturers to sell smart appliances that are not Internet connected, but it would not be as easy to sell connected appliances that are not smarter than traditional appliances.

In this age of connectivity, how can a premium range of appliances -- such as refrigerator costing more than $3,000 -- be launched without being fully connected? Appliances are supposed to last for 10 to 15 years, and selling hi-end appliances that do not connect to the Web would make them obsolete, within the next two to three years. Even so, this is a risk companies seem to be taking.

Companies are also racing to own your smart hub. Every device maker and technology company at CES is aggressively promoting their own smart hub, smart TV, smart set-top, smart thermostat, smart car dashboard, and so on. There are also other instances that may not even require a smartphone to monitor or control appliances remotely. You could also do that with a smart multi-purpose remote control integrated with your smart TV that acts as another smart hub.

It would be interesting to see how home appliance market integrates with other consumer devices, living the IoT or shall I say IiE world.

Be free to contact me to discuss further. A more detailed analysis of the CES 2016 and IBS 2016 (International Builder Show) will be updated the following week with some pictures and illustrations.

Happy Reading, Keep Reading!

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