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Homing Devices

Top manufacturers are moving into the Internet appliances business, and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at consumers -- from radios, picture frames and analog televisions, to heating-control ...


July 1, 2001  


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Top manufacturers are moving into the Internet appliances business, and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at consumers — from radios, picture frames and analog televisions, to heating-control systems and washing machines. Here is a quick look at some of the devices that have been announced and appeared on trade show floors — and will likely be coming to a home near you by mid-decade:

A coffee maker, mixer, electric blanket, smoke detector, bathroom scale and blood-pressure monitor from Sunbeam that can talk wirelessly to an Internet-ready kitchen counter top console, palm-sized organizer or alarm clock. Skip the measuring cup — the mixer’s sensors will tell you when to stop pouring, and the scale can track your weight and recommend recipes. The clock directs the coffee maker to start brewing 10 minutes before its alarm sounds, and starts warming the electric blanket shortly before you hit the bed.

A microwave oven by General Electric sets cooking times based on the bar codes on packaged foods. (The company has also developed a full-sized oven that responds to voice commands in up to 250 regional accents).

Refrigerators by GE and Whirlpool with removable touch-screen control pads can connect wirelessly to the Internet or other devices around the home, and download recipes or control other appliances. Whirlpool envisions the pad not only as a home controller, but also as an electronic calendar and message board. Additionally, the fridge can tally up a shopping list by scanning the bar codes of empty packages, and restock supplies by ordering them over the Internet.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Japan’s largest consumer electronics maker, has built a gleaming, glass-walled “networked house” filled with network-ready gadgets: the buzzer outside the front door can relay streaming video of visitors to your mobile phone; the flat-panel video screen in the living room can send e-mail, play the soaps and process your home shopping requests all at the same time; the microwave oven in the kitchen can download instructions from the Internet on how to cook your dinner.

The kicker? An online commode — “The Healthy Toilet” — that monitors your weight, body fat and blood sugar and can send your vital statistics to doctors, relatives or to other appliances.


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