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Just what does “smart” mean when it comes to the smart home and smart appliances? What is IoT or the Internet of Things? And how does IoT fit into the big picture of smart appliances?
Let’s start with the term “smart.”
Surprisingly, pinning down a definition can be difficult as different companies (and writers!) use the term in different ways.
Back in the day, an appliance with an intuitive user interface and several automated program choices was considered “smart.” Think of a basic microwave, coffee maker, toaster, washer, or dishwasher with its buttons and menus. It doesn’t use a wireless connection much less a voice assistant or app, but it does have multiple programs from which to choose. However, no one today would call these appliances “smart.”
I define a smart device or smart appliance as something that connects via WiFi or Bluetooth (or Zigbee, Thread, or Z-Wave) to a smartphone or tablet by way of an app or is controllable by voice command. It usually offers more options via the app or voice command than whatever can be accessed by way of buttons on the smart device itself. I think most of you would agree with this definition.
Sometimes a smart device is called a connected device. But there are some who argue that WiFi connectivity is not the same thing as smart. A smart appliance is connected but also must have features that proactively help the user.
Then, there are two additional levels of “smartness” to consider: AI and IoT.
Oracle.com explains what makes IoT smart appliances possible:
“In this hyperconnected world, digital systems can record, monitor, and adjust each interaction between connected things. The physical world meets the digital world—and they cooperate.”
So, adding IoT doesn’t overly complicate smart devices from a user standpoint as it runs primarily in the background. But its implications are far-reaching.
Although we see smart appliances everywhere we turn, they’ve only been around since 2016. That’s when the June Countertop Oven and the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator were introduced. By the way, June is now on its third generation while the Family Hub is on its sixth.
The goal of a smart appliance should be to save you time and energy. In other words, it should be helpful and easy to use.
But if you find that dealing with an app is aggravating, or you don’t mind doing things old-school, or you’d prefer not to spend a lot of money for “smartness,” that’s okay. Just buy something more traditional or entry level. Today’s regular appliances tend to be more energy-efficient than whatever it is you’re replacing—a big win, regardless.
Don’t EVER feel pressured into buying something that has more features than you’ll ever need. That includes “smartness”—with or without AI and IoT. After all, smart technology is an add-on feature just like other bells-and-whistles options—at least for now. Replace your older appliances with smart ones only if you feel comfortable with the decision.
Here are some select features often found in smart appliances. Of course, not all features are in all smart appliances as some are appliance specific or brand specific. And some are only found in the highest-end of smart appliances.
You may have already run into incompatibility problems when it comes to smaller smart home devices. Some may only work with Alexa while others only work with Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit/Siri. And let’s not forget Samsung’s Bixby! Even if your devices are compatible with one or more voice assistants, you still have a different app for each manufacturer’s brand or suite of products. That can be a lot of apps!
It’s the same set of problems with big ticket items like smart kitchen appliances and smart washers and dryers.
If you have a GE smart appliance, you’ll need the SmartHQ app. Samsung has SmartThing and LG has ThinQ. Bosch has Home Connect while Whirlpool has, well, Whirlpool. And so on.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all your smart home devices worked together, seamlessly, regardless of brand?
Tech Radar nails it when it comes to how we think a smart home should behave:
“The promise of smart home tech is that your gadgets can interact with each other to make a system that is better than the sum of its parts. One example of an ideal world could see you unlock your front door’s smart lock after coming home from a long day of work and your smart speaker could instantly kick on your favorite tunes while a smart coffee machine brews you a relaxing beverage.
“Unfortunately to achieve something like this, you need to spend a lot of time researching if a device is compatible with the gadgets you already have – and if it isn't, there might not be an alternative that is.”
The reality is that today’s smart home is made up of a bunch of smaller micro systems. Locks, lights, blinds, security cameras, electric appliances, etc. all use different apps.
An intriguing survey from Parks Associates released in early 2022 found:
The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) is working on an IoT common language for ALL smart devices. It’s called Matter.
“Matter is going to solve a lot of problems for consumers…Matter is really going to deliver that standard that delivers interoperability for device-to-device communication in the home and we’ve got basically every major company on the planet agreeing to it,” explained Tobin Richardson, President and CEO, Connectivity Standards Alliance, during an interview with CNET.
So far, over 500 companies are working together with CSA. But the reality is that not only will it take time, but some smart devices are also too old to upgrade. And Matter or no Matter, there will still be separate apps. Matter-based ones will add more options for playing nice with others.
If you’re looking to buy a major smart appliance soon, check to see if it is Matter compatible. Or, if you love smart devices but hate multiple apps, consider sticking with one brand for your kitchen and laundry smart appliances.
It’s completely up to you whether you want to replace your older appliances with smart ones or regular ones.
But if you’re going to get a new major appliance, use the opportunity to change out the existing power cords and water hoses. They don’t age well and can develop problems over time. Plus, many new appliances do not come with the connectivity solutions you need.
Certified Appliance Accessories has you covered—whether your appliances are smart or regular.
Finally, be smart as a person too:
The smart prep you do in advance will help ensure a smooth appliance hookup.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Certified Appliance Accessories is not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.