IFA, the international trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances, is well known for showcasing the latest innovations. This year’s show, held in Berlin from 1 – 6 September 2017, attracted 2,000 exhibitors and 253,000 visitors – and Trend Monitor was there to check out the latest smart home trends.
#1 Look who’s talking
Only time will tell whether consumers really want to ‘talk’ to their appliances. All the same, Candy is getting a head start on the competition with Bianca, a washing machine that you can communicate with by talking to Candy’s simply-Fi app.
For example, you can ask Bianca to start a cycle or request help choosing the right washing settings. Bianca will also dispense tips and tell you if it needs maintenance.
Samsung has also joined the voice-activated appliance war. Its Family Hub fridge, already on the market, has been upgraded with Samsung Connect, a cloud-based voice function that you can use to interact with it: ask for time and weather updates, search the internet, read news articles, play music and radio and add items to a shopping list.
Not to be outdone, Bosch presented Roxxter, the first robotic vacuum cleaner that can be controlled via Amazon’s Alexa. Just say, ‘Alexa, tell the Home Connect robot to clean the kitchen’ and your helper will be on its way.
Roxxter comes with RoomSelect, which lets you schedule cleaning for individual rooms. Plus, there’s an integrated streaming camera so you can keep an eye on your home via the app when you’re not there.
It’s not just appliance manufacturers that are taking a punt on voice control: Sony has launched the LF-S50G wireless speaker powered by Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant that can engage in two-way conversations. Want to know what the traffic will be like on your route to work, set a wake-up alarm or retrieve the flight booking details for your next trip? Then bring the speaker to life by saying, “OK Google”.
The LG-S50G doesn’t work alone. Google Assistant can also voice control other smart devices from compatible platforms, including Chromecast built-in, Nest, Philips Hue and IFTTT, so you can adjust many aspects of your home environment with voice commands.
Elsewhere, Panasonic has partnered with Google to produce the first hi-fi speakers with Google Assistant built in. The idea is that you can treat the SC-GA10 like your virtual personal assistant: for example, you can request a favourite music track or ask questions.
#2 Winning the war on waste
If all this sounds – dare we say it – gimmicky, then perhaps you’ll find the Smarter FridgeCam more useful. The first wireless camera to fit inside any fridge, the FridgeCam allows you to see the content from anywhere via the Smarter app. You can also track expiry dates and get recipe suggestions based on the food in your fridge.
The question is, why? Well, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year. While a fridge camera isn’t the only solution, it may go some way to improving the situation.
#3. As safe as houses
Home security systems are hot right now. Armed with just a smartphone and an app, you can control door locks, monitor and control cameras and double-check door and window sensors wherever you are.
Solutions on show at IFA included the Fibaro Intercom, which allows for video calls between a smartphone and whoever is ringing the doorbell. A Full HD camera with a 180-degree recording angle provides a wide field of view, while IR (infrared) LEDs are automatically activated at night.
Smart locks are also enjoying a moment. Negating the need for a bunch of keys, a smart lock will lock and unlock a door when it receives instructions from an authorised smartphone.
And that’s not all. Models such as Nuki allow you to share access permissions and change them – ideal if yours is a rental property or if you care for relatives whose home you need to enter in emergencies.
The added bonus is that an elderly parent doesn’t even need a smartphone: he or she can keep using a key to lock and unlock the door from the outside and can turn the smart lock manually from the inside.
#4. Save energy
Just in time for the winter, tado° has launched Smart Climate Assistant, which adjusts the temperature of your home based on both environmental factors and your own needs.
Features include open-window detection, which automatically adjusts the heating if a window is opened, and weather detection, which turns the heating down when sunshine is predicted.
Geofencing is another feature. This ensures that the heating is automatically turned down when the last person leaves home and that it’s turned on again when the first person is returning. You can now manually adjust the geofencing radius when tado° switches to home mode. Plus, you’ll get a monthly energy savings report so you can see tado°’s impact.
Fitted on hot-water radiators, Netatmo Smart Valves allow you to control your heating on a room-by-room basis, whether you have individual or collective heating. The valves set a heating schedule for each room, and you can customise the temperature of each room via the app.
For example, you could heat the bathroom to 21°C in the morning and cool it while you’re out for the day, while keeping children’s rooms at 19°C from 5pm on weekdays when they come back from school.
Designed by French design studio Starck, the Smart Valves work with Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant. Could Alexa support be next on the agenda? Watch this space.