By now, most of us have heard all about the possibilities of smart appliances. A refrigerator that checks your expiration dates. A washer that emails your serviceman the second it detects a malfunction. A dishwasher that only runs when electricity is at its cheapest.
But like the closely-linked market for home energy management systems, the smart appliances market has, so far, failed to take off in the manner many originally anticipated. Many products are still involved in small pilots and have failed to hit retail outlets in any large number.
However, according to a report released this week from ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, shipments of smart appliances will soon begin to pick up and exceed 24 million units by 2017.
With smart meter deployment growing apace, energy costs following a seemingly upward trajectory, and progress made on improving interoperability of all aspects of the smart grid, ABI says it is only a matter of time before shipments gather momentum.
The number of major appliance manufacturers that have used recent trade shows as launch pads for new products is a good sign that the market may soon see substantial growth. At this year’s CES, LG Electronics, www.lg.com, unveiled a new series of smart appliances, including a smart refrigerator, oven, washing machine, and vacuum cleaner. Samsung also showed updated apps for its connected refrigerator and unveiled its Wi-Fi-enabled WF457 washer.
Last month, GE Appliances, www.geappliances.com, announced the launch of a two-year smart grid pilot with and Flint Energies, www.flintenergies.com, based out of Georgia. The goal of the pilot is to understand the potential for GE's line of networked appliances, which use the appliance maker’s Brillion communication technology.
Other big name appliance makers BSH, www.bsh-group.us, Miele, www.miele.com, and Electrolux, www.electrolux.com, have also unveiled one or more smart products. Whirlpool, www.whirlpool.com, announced in January that throughout the next 18 months, it plans to launch a connected refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, and dryer.
And while the smart appliance market seems to being forward, ABI expects high prices to remain a barrier, at least for the short term. The research firm says it will likely take a couple of years for ultra-premium price tags to erode and for dynamic pricing structures to become more widely implemented in order to titillate consumer demand.