Today’s range of internet-enabled smart devices go beyond just streaming TV sets and voice activated virtual assistants. A broad range of appliances from automated cleaning robots to refrigerators that can replenish a shopping list are all hitting the market.
Best Buy in Sherman has added a new division in recent years known as the “in-home advisor.” Joshua Keelin serves the Grayson County area in that role and says there is an increasing demand for various network connected devices of all shapes and sizes.
“The center piece of your smart appliances will be our refrigerators,” Keelin said. “We have smart refrigerators that will do everything from having built-in tablets to having windows you can knock on that will open up. The technology in the refrigerator that makes them smart is not always the electronics.”
Keelin showed a fridge with a built-in smart hub that can run the entire connected home from the kitchen. There were some that feature cameras inside that show the contents of the fridge to help in preparing a shopping list. There are some models that can bring up all the local grocery stores selling a specific item to help the shopper find the best deal. One model could even connect to the smart doorbell and show who is at the front door right on the built-in tablet.
Each smart appliance uses its own operating system. One of the things the in-home advisor does is help customers integrate all of their devices in their home to ensure complete compatibility.
Keelin said everything starts with the network, and that for most smart homes the kitchen is the focal point. Some of the appliances include screens with speakers to allow for playing music and shows in the kitchen. Most will integrate with the smart assistant from Siri to Google Home and others. Keelin said there are some refrigerators that have interchangeable units that can go from a fridge unit to the freezer side, depending on the users needs. Some of the smart appliances can even facilitate some of that.
“Appliances can be what you want them to be,” he said. “(For) some people they are just simple tools, something to cook or store food in. For some people it is a real statement or advanced tool in the home. Some of these can actually act as hubs for everything in the entire home. Your lighting, thermostat, cameras, distributed audio — basically everything can be controlled from these types of things.”
Smart appliances have hit the market fast and are moving quickly, Keelin said. They only came on the scene a few years ago and each year add more features, things Keelin said he never expected to see. Stoves, ovens and ranges can be controlled remotely from a phone app. The device can set it to preheat before a person gets home in case they are running late. Everything is controlled from the phone and can be shut off remotely in case something happens to keep from getting home in time. One popular feature on smart stoves is the ability to bring up a menu with recipes to help make cooking easier. The apps will even list the utensils necessary to prepare to meal.
Robot vacuums are another popular item Keelin said more and more people are looking into. There are some that work as a vacuum and others that work as a mop. Many have features that allow the device to map out the house and clean on a set schedule without supervision. Once the device gets into a routine it will improve its cleaning process and many can recharge themselves as needed without being told.
As for contents of the vacuum, many come with a tower that deposits debris into a bag that the user empties. Others have a small container that can be emptied by the user; it depends on the needs of the individual. Some also include arms with brushes that can extend to get into hard to reach places such as corners.
“The cool thing about smart appliances is I think we’re really at our peak,” Keelin said. “I don’t know how close we are to transfer product from one device to another and start going, but they are advancing rapidly. They are going to continue to make things better for us.”
Keelin said the interest in smart appliances has exploded in the last two years to the point that Best Buy created his division to respond to the demand. He said there has been an increase in people upgrading their homes to those building new homes that are looking for integrated smart devices.
“The kitchen is the center point of most homes,” Keelin said. “That is where a lot of conversations happen. It is where you are entertaining. A lot of people are upgrading to these smart appliances and mapping them out to their entire home. As we start getting into bigger homes, think about the washer and dryer — it could be down a floor or on the other side of the house. You won’t know when that cycle is done. It can alert you right on your phone.”
He said that he recommends having at least DSL speeds or faster when installing smart appliances. Virtually every device will connect to the internet and it is important to have a good WiFi network. There are two aspects that need to be addressed: coverage and speed. The faster the speed the better when it comes to multiple devices accessing the network simultaneously.
Another popular appliance getting the internet treatment are dishwashers. A popular feature is setting the cycle to notify the user when the cycle completes. It can also be set to run on a timer from an app or use a voice assistant to start the cycle.
When it comes to security, Keelin said it all starts at the network.
“Any time we subscribe to anything that is on the network we want to make sure we are using advanced security features,” he said. “Mesh network and managed networks can have their own extra layer of encryption or VPNs you can set up with a more private network. We always encourage our clients to use two-factor authentication. Use any kind of additional security you can. Cyber security is very important to us. We take that very seriously.”
When it comes to whole home integration, Keelin said the sky is the limit. Things from having smart blinds, lighting and shading can be integrated if someone has the money to invest.