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Interoperability key to smart appliances market growth

Posted: 21 Jul 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart home  smart appliances  IoT 

Automated homes have been science fiction staple for decades as seen in popular TV series and movies. Having a smart home means usually means all appliances and other electronic devices can be controlled remotely, scheduled to operate at specific periods, and can anticipate the homeowner's every need. The continuous evolution of the Internet, driven by ever increasing volumes of online information, commerce and social networking, can potentially open more immediate opportunities for the widespread penetration of automated homes. Innovations in smart appliances, in particular, present a viable avenue for growth.

There are two ways in which an appliance can be considered as "smart," Dinesh Kithany, Senior Analyst, Home Appliances at IHS Technology, explained to EE Times India. One type is the connected appliance, which allows remote monitoring via the Internet or Wi-Fi. Another type is the networked appliance, which is connected to the smart grid and can operate at a certain time depending on peaks and dips in electricity demand.

For connected appliances, the key driver is practicality. Consumers don't upgrade appliances regularly like they do with smartphones, tablets and other gadgets. As long as the product is still working and accomplishing the task it is designed to do, there is little need for a replacement. This is where value proposition comes in. According to a survey by Fortinet, although homeowners report a willingness to pay more to enable their connected home, when asked what factors impact their buying decisions of connected home devices, the number one answer that was consistent in all countries was price followed by functionality.

Vendors need to be able to present complementary features that create demand. Such value additions include compatibility with appliances of competing brands and adaptability to other technologies. These are now possible through smart chips, mainly low-power microcontrollers/processors, sensors, wired or wireless networking interface with IPv6 support that enables Internet of Things (IoT), and power management ICs for mains as well as energy harvesting.

Semiconductor companies with wide product knowledge of analogue, processor and sensor and power components are actively participating in this market. Such firms include STMicroelectronics, International Rectifier, Texas Instruments, Freescale Semiconductor, Microsemi, NXP Semiconductors, Renesas Electronics, ON Semiconductor, Fairchild Semiconductor and Microchip Technology to name a few.

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