LG HomeChat – you text, the appliances listen
In the recent past, talking refrigerators, ovens and other appliances were a thing of horror movies and anecdotes. Not any more! At the ongoing CES 2014, LG announced a new generation of smart home appliances that are able to communicate with their owners via the company's new HomeChat service, or the popular mobile messenger LINE. That's right - owners of LG's 2014 appliances will be able to receive status updates and notifications from their digital brains, as well as issue commands to them with the simplicity of texting.
In one of the scenarios, messaging "I'm going on vacation" on HomeChat will result in a prompt to activate "Vacation mode". Say yes, and the fridge will automatically enter low-power mode, the robotic vacuum will sweep the floor at a set time, the washing machine will wash and dry your clothes, and everything will be in blissful harmony when you return. Unless the machines have become sentient and decided to take over your house in the meantime. But this only happens in the movies, right?
By the way, LG's service doesn't only handle automation. It's a full-blown messenger between the user and the appliances as well. For example, the refrigerator can display a list of its contents on your smartphone when you're out shopping. This way, you won't end up buying food items which you already have, but forgot about - an all too familiar experience. In another example, a "Freshness Tracker" monitors the food inside the fridge's expiration dates (entered manually by the user) and alerts you if something is starting to spoil. These features are part of LG's Smart Manager app, which also makes recommendations for dishes to prepare, based on the ingredients you have inside the fridge.
The smart-abilities are not exclusive to refrigerators, of course. LG's 2014 vacuums, washing machines, and ovens have all gotten smarter. The HOM-BOT "robotic" vacuum cleaner can be programmed to sweep on set times, and interacted with by asking questions such as "When did you last clean?”. The HOM-BOT's movement can be controlled via the messenger as well, which probably turns the unsuspecting vacuum into an awesome RC-toy.
HomeChat commands can also make your new washing machine download up-to-date wash cycles, start washing, and push alerts to a connected smartphone or LG Smart TV when a cycle is over. Cooking has also gotten easier - with HomeChat and Recipe Search, LG's smart ovens can recommend recipes for dishes, find out which ingredients you need, automatically select cooking settings, and alert you about the meal's progress or the availability of new recipes.
All in all, it seems that both LG and Samsung are set on turning your smartphone or smart-TV into the most versatile remote control in existence. And the comfort which the integration of smart appliances and mobile technology will provide makes our plain old appliances look not merely outdated, but ancient in comparison.