Showcasing innovation at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is commonplace; it’s what the show is all about. Showcasing innovation where it isn’t expected – that’s something exciting.
One of the surprising innovators at the 2013 CES was Whirlpool – yeah, Whirlpool, they probably made your refrigerator or your washing machine. There were a few pieces in the “Whirlpool 20/20” booth that supported the “smart place” that can be brought home today… and some that showed where it might be going in the future (at least if the creative minds have their way).
“We innovate to bring simplicity to the lives of those using our products. Whether that’s appliances that connect to the grid and keep consumers alerted to the appliance’s status or energy usage, or concepts that explore future living trends and pioneering evolutions in design, food and sustainability, we’re committed to advancing our technology in ways consumers want and need.”
— Tanu Grewal, Sr. Brand Manager, Whirlpool
The effectiveness of current technology as the backbone of a smart place is evident from Whirlpool’s “6th Sense Live” smart appliances. These appliances optimize energy usage though a connection to Smart Grid data used by some utility companies. More impressive are the features that are accessed at either a touch-screen on the appliance or via a smartphone application. The smart appliances make suggestions like “you might want to start this load of laundry in an hour when the power rates are lower”, let the user check on status (“did I remember to turn on the dishwasher?”) and receive alerts if something goes awry. The first appliances with 6th Sense Live technology are expected in March.
Two interesting concept projects were also featured in the “Whirlpool 20/20” booth (Ed note: this was the International CES after all).
Reaching back to the idea of the hearth as the heart of the home, Whirlpool’s “Fireplace” concept merges the modern kitchen and living room by combining a multifunctional cooking table and an air treatment/ lighting hood. The center of the “Fireplace” table is a cooking reservoir that emits different frequencies of light to either create a warm atmosphere or cook food. The concept proposes that interaction between the table and the hood would make it possible to detect and create an ideal cooking setting for each kind of food. The concept showed the table surrounding the fireplace center as an intelligent surface working in combination with smart accessories to detect and adjust temperatures through sensors.
Also taking the old and making it very, very new is the “FreshConnect” concept. The idea is to provide each type of food the best environment for its storage. The system consists of specialized accessories that could provide the right temperature and humidity level to connected bread and fruit baskets, wine chillers, herbariums and specialized cooling boxes to easily keep meat and dairy fresh and concealed.
The “FreshConnect” concept also takes a current trend into the future: building on the idea of home delivery of groceries from services like FreshDirect, Peapod and Netgrocer. Specialized delivery bags could be plugged into a docking station that is connected to a central cooling system (utilized by several apartments in the same building) that regulates temperature and humidity inside the containers.
Whirlpool obviously has its eye on the future. Exploring truly innovative ideas, despite the likelihood of them ever becoming a reality, is how many great ideas are born. Building on current technology and using it in the best possible way shows commitment to advancement. Whirlpool (yeah… that Whirlpool) is doing both.
If you want to see all the goodies that Whirlpool had on the show floor at the International CES, visit the site at http://ces.whirlpool.com/.