Smart Appliances and Now the Internet of Things (IoT)

smart appliances

Has My Smart Home Gotten More Complicated?

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.

  1. AI. Does the appliance self-learn your household routine or layout and adjust operational parameters to match? The Nest Thermostat or a robot vacuum cleaner are two good examples. So is a security camera system that learns faces to distinguish between friend and stranger—or at least distinguishes between people, pets, and cars. These are examples of AI (artificial intelligence) enhancing the capabilities of a smart device.
  2. IoT or the Internet of Things. This is when smart devices automatically communicate with each other using the Internet, without needing a human prompt. An example of an IoT smart appliance is a smart fridge that sees you’re out of eggs and auto-orders them for you. Or a washer that runs self-diagnostics and then touches base with its manufacturer. If it finds problems, possible outcomes are that it self-orders a part, facilitates having a factory-authorized repairman come out, or sends a notification to your app to clean a filter. Nearly all major smart appliances use IoT in some form—at least for diagnostics. explains what makes IoT smart appliances possible:

  • Relatively inexpensive sensors that monitor all kinds of inner workings
  • Network protocols that connect sensors to the Cloud
  • Machine learning and analytics
  • Conversational artificial intelligence—voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri that understand language and can engage in conversations

“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.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Smart Appliances?

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.

Pros of Smart Appliances

  • Automates mundane tasks for busy people to increase kitchen and laundry room efficiency
  • Ability to control multiple aspects from an app for more direct control as well as remote operation
  • Ability to adjust operation parameters based on load and other “green” features, saving energy and money
  • Ability to partner with complementary companies and apps to enlarge the user experience
  • Uses IoT for remote diagnostics for zero guesswork and no surprises when it comes to maintenance
  • Still works if there are hiccups in the smart aspect; you just won’t be able to tap into all the extras—although you might want to ask a salesman or the manufacturer for verification

Cons of Smart Appliances

  • There’s a learning curve associated with every app as well as the various smart features of each appliance
  • Each manufacturer has their own app, so mixing and matching brands requires multiple apps
  • They cost more to purchase and possibly repair
  • Use of smart features requires constant connection to Internet or WiFi
  • Software will need updates, there can be software bugs, and there’s the eventual possibility of the appliance being too old to accept updates
  • Possible hacking or lack of security/protection of data
  • Privacy concerns—how will any info gathered by smart appliances be used by the manufacturer?

Smart Appliance Features

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.

  • Works with voice assistants
  • Robust app with customization options
  • Remote turn on/off
  • Cameras or special door panel to see inside without opening the door—even livestreaming!
  • Adjusts cycles and temperatures and lets you know when cycles are complete
  • Interconnectivity of settings between appliances like washer and dryer or refrigerator and oven
  • Recipe suggestions and personalized meal prep through third-party apps
  • Automatic food deliveries or supply replenishment through third-party apps
  • IoT connectivity for maintenance, reordering, and more

Smart Appliances Don’t Necessarily “Talk” the Same Language

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?

Getting All Smart Devices on the Same Page

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:

  • 73 percent of US broadband households that own or are planning to buy a smart home device consider interoperability important
  • Households are split nearly 50/50 between having a highly customized, hands-on app (52%) and a simple, automated one that requires little from its user (48%)
  • Currently, 36% of broadband households own a smart home device with 45% reporting a high intention to buy one in the next six months
  • Homes with smart products tend to own an average of 8 devices

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.

Smart Appliances Still Require Standard Connectivity Solutions

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.

We offer:

Finally, be smart as a person too:

  • Don’t forget to measure your space as well as the pathway to get the appliance into the kitchen or laundry area
  • Check to see if there’s an electrical outlet instead of bare wires sticking out of the wall
  • Ask if your new appliance comes with a power cord or water hose; if not, buy it yourself (preferably from us!) and have it handy when the installers arrive

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.