Tackling the Challenges of Smart Appliances
The “Internet of Things” or “IOT” has been a buzzword for the past few years. Establishing connectivity and greater intelligence in appliances has the potential to reshape the way consumers use energy. It has the potential to change the way that consumers interact with and interface with their appliances. It also has the potential to give them greater control and convenience.
Home appliance manufacturers—both on their own and collectively—continue to develop new and better connected solutions for tomorrow’s consumer-driven marketplace. The innovative products they’re developing have great potential to “fight above their weight class” and deliver superior performance while contributing significantly to the increased efficiency of the electrical grid.
Connecting an appliance to a home network can allow for remote operation of a dishwasher when you’ve forgotten to turn it on as you left the house this morning. A connected clothes dryer will inform you when its cycle is completed, saving you the time of de-wrinkling or ironing that last load of laundry you just tossed in. A connected refrigerator can order your groceries when its shelves are bare. Connected cooking can provide safety by allowing you to lock out a cooktop when only children are in the house, and it can enhance your life by allowing you to download a new recipe to your range to try out over the weekend. The potential consumer benefits provided by connected appliances are staggering.
But, in order to allow appliances within a network to connect, collect and share information, manufacturers must address consumer needs for communication, security and privacy.
AHAM’s leadership is working to provide coordination, cooperation and communication among the various standards organizations and governmental agencies to provide for a common communications infrastructure for connected appliances.
AHAM Standard SA-1-2014: Common Information Necessary to Intelligent Appliances focuses on the appliance end point in a consumer’s home and what functionalities, types of information and actions can be completed by each appliance type in support of the smart grid.
If appliances are to be connected to a consumer’s Wi-Fi network, or Bluetooth device, then the communication task may be simpler but of no less importance to the consumer. Consumers seek communication solutions that allow for multiple appliances to be connected to their home network. They need connected solutions that allow the products to come from a variety of retailers and manufacturers and yet all work together to make their lives easier and more convenient.
Any product connected to the Internet must be safeguarded from unauthorized access. And this must be true, regardless of whether the appliance is shifting load on the smart grid, or washing the children’s dirty laundry. AHAM continues to address security in connected appliances and seeks out input from the broader connected community on continuing ways to provide secure connected appliances. AHAM believes that consumer privacy policies and data privacy policies should be fully defined and readily accessible for all connected appliance communication solutions.
Smart appliances, in addition to providing consumer functionality and convenience, also have the potential to significantly impact our electrical grid and energy consumption. A refrigerator capable of receiving a utility signal can postpone the defrost cycle to a time of day when electricity is cheapest or when renewable energy is available. Similarly, so can a clothes dryer. In 2011, the U.S. EPA recognized the connected benefits that appliances can provide and modified the energy efficiency criteria for refrigerators and freezers that carry the ENERGY STAR logo.
While saving energy is noble and saving money is enriching, they are not the only elements that must be met. Consumers are busy. Providing for the needs of a family takes great effort and time, and consumers constantly seek out solutions that will simplify their life and add convenience in regards to chores and tasks. Appliances are often at the core of these chores and tasks and connected appliances provide consumers the opportunity to complete these often undesirable tasks faster and more easily.
AHAM is working to help establish flexible solutions that allow for these mixed systems to be built, yet not impede the ability of the product design community to develop innovativee features and products that can better meet the consumer tasks of tomorrow.