Editors' pick: Originally published Jan. 3.
This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will mark the point in which the smart appliance moves from "nice-to-have," to "must-have" for many homeowners.
In large part, that is a byproduct of more reasonable prices and new technology. For instance, Whirlpool (WHR) has teamed up with Amazon (AMZN) to offer appliances that respond to voice commands via the tech giant's digital assistant Alexa. Consumers can ask Alexa to pause and start Whirlpool washers and dryers, adjust cooking modes on ovens and turn on/off maximum ice and cooling status. The new skill will be available across Whirlpool's connected products early this year.
More broadly, Whirlpool will have 20 new connected appliance models in 2017, most notably in cooking, Jason Mathew, Sr. Director, Global Connected Strategy at Whirlpool Corporation, told TheStreet in an interview. Many of the products, says Mathew, will be priced at less than $1,000.
"For 100 years, consumers have been interacting with our products by turning a knob or pushing a button, but the most natural way is to interact is with voice," said Matthew, adding, "Going forward, people will simply speak and command in order to drive activity."
This is one of Whirlpool's new connected cook-tops
Whirlpool isn't alone in upping its smart appliance game this year.
Samsung will be at CES showcasing ovens and cook-tops that are capable of connecting to Wi-Fi networks. Doing so will give people the ability to start, control and turn their kitchen equipment on or off remotely.
Meanwhile, LG is poised to steal the show with new appliances that use advanced machine learning technology. The company will take the wraps off a vacuum that harnesses deep learning technology to map surface images of all the rooms in a house to remember obstacles and how to avoid hitting them. A new smart air conditioner from LG will adjust temperatures by sensing which parts of a home are most occupied at different points of the day and adjusting accordingly.
And finally, there is a smart washing machine from LG that knows if your clothes are often muddy, and then programs an extra spin cycle.
"We are very much on the cusp of where smart appliances finally deliver on the promise of being smart, and being really helpful to the consumer and not just being a device that has some things connected to the internet," says Teforia CEO Allen Han, whose company manufacturers a smart tea-brewing machine.
Despite all of the new features, smart appliances still face some resistance from consumers.
"The fact that most consumers do not own only one brand of appliances means that having to use more than one app or platform to access the connectivity of all the appliances in a household will totally deter from the advantages connected
Even still, Euromonitor is looking for sizable growth from the smart appliance market. Sales of connected appliances will surge in the next five years from 30 million units sold in 2016 to 178 million units in 2020. One of the fastest-growing markets will be connected air conditioners, which are seen expanding from 11 million units sold in 2016 to 87 million units in 2020.