The Future of Consumer Electronics and Appliances
Euromonitor International attended the 2018 Edition of IFA, which took place in Berlin over 31st August to 5th September. IFA is one of the leading trade shows for consumer electronics and home appliances. If smart home, voice control and artificial intelligence were the most discussed topics during the conference, few significant innovations were noticeable compared to last year’s edition.
This lack of dynamism could be interpreted as the result of the macroeconomic uncertainties of the recent past, notably related to Brexit’s unpredictable outcomes and Trump’s protectionist policies. Nevertheless, some key topics were recurring throughout the event.
Appliances more connected and intelligent than ever …
Intelligent interconnected appliances, i.e. devices that can exchange information and register personal habits, were a big focus at IFA Berlin. These appliances enable consumers to save time but also to benefit from additional capacities and resources.
A recurring theme at IFA Berlin this year was the presence of internal cameras within fridges. Thanks to this function, it is possible to check on the fridge’s content when you are at the supermarket. Additionally, most of the fridges (from brands such as Liebherr, Miele, LG, Candy Hoover, etc.) now include a cooking management system that recommends recipes based on food preferences and what is available within the fridge.
It is also important to mention the existence of washing machines that are connected and can be controlled through a smartphone app. On the app, one can provide further information regarding the type of clothing present in the machine (in terms of texture, level of soiling, colour, etc.). In addition to being connected, those washing machines are intelligent and include auto-dosing sensors that identify load weight. Thanks to those sensors, the machine automatically adjusts water, energy, and cycle time. This innovation was visible at AEG Electrolux, which is launching a new 7000 series with AutoDose.
In the same spirit, Miele has announced the launch of a new generation of dishwashers equipped with auto-dosing technology through the so-called PowerDisk. Thanks to this function, the right amount of detergent is dispensed automatically during wash cycles. Each PowerDisk contains enough detergent – in the form of powder granulate – for around 20 cycles.
Candy Hoover is also making impressive developments in the smart connectivity area. The AXI washing machine, due to be launched in the third quarter of 2019, will be equipped with voice capability. Voice control is set to be possible via phone, speaker or directly to the machine. The machine will also have an intelligent Textile Expert Detector (TED) system recognising fabrics and stains and selecting the most relevant wash functions to treat them. Its Care Dose system will also automatically add the right amount of detergent and softener, based on water hardness and the cycle selected.
Far from being restricted to major appliances, connected and intelligent features can also be found in smaller appliances such as robotic vacuum cleaners and air purifiers. Those devices can now be turned on or off remotely, depending on the time of day and the activity of each member of the household.
The sensitive topic of personal data
Intelligent appliances are appealing thanks to the savings they enable in terms of time and energy. Nevertheless, they tend to collect an enormous amount of information related to the habits and preferences of a given household. This raises the following concern: what will appliance manufacturers do with all the personal data collected? Clearly, food and nutrition firms but also governments and insurance companies may be interested in accessing such information. We can easily imagine that an insurance provider would be interested in adapting its fees to the living and eating habits of its clients.
During the conference, many appliance manufacturers reiterated their commitment to protecting the confidentiality of the personal data collected. This kind of communication is crucial, especially in Europe where consumers tend to be more sensitive when it comes to sharing personal information online. According to Euromonitor International Survey data, there are disparities across regions in terms of willingness to share personal information with third parties. 29% of consumers in Asia Pacific agree or strongly agree with the following statement: “I freely share personal information online”, while the figure is considerably lower in Europe.
A step towards sustainability
Some players did communicate on innovative products or solutions contributing to a more sustainable future. To reduce the effects of microfibers’ bioaccumulation, Grundig has developed a new microfiber filtering technology in its washing machines. Directly integrated into washing machines, this new system has been designed to filter up to 99% of microfibers leaking into water sources.
Similarly, Grundig has developed a new multi-door system in its refrigerator range to reduce food wastage while keeping energy use to a minimum. Grundig’s new refrigerator range includes a Fullfresh+ 0°C compartment. This temperature-sensitive compartment uses insulation and optimised air flow design to keep items fresher. The manufacturer went even further by including a zone in the fridge that recreates photosynthesis to ensure that fruit and vegetables are as fresh as the day they were purchased.
Many similar examples exist in that area. Liebherr’s new refrigerator models, for instance, include a BioFresh zone for storing food at just over 0°C, as well as a fish & seafood safe, where the temperature can be cooled to -2°C. According to the manufacturer, this system considerably extends the storage time and thereby limits food waste.
Midea communicated during the conference on its All Easy Series R-290 Air Conditioners, the first ones to meet the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. Under this amendment, 197 countries committed to cutting production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80% over the next 30 years. In addition, Midea highlighted the Blue Angel Certification obtained for its air conditioners, this certification being an ecolabel of the federal government of Germany that sets high standards for environmentally friendly products.
There are clear signs that sustainability is becoming an increasingly important topic for manufacturers, as well as an essential add-on to their marketing strategies. Initiatives related to sustainability are therefore set to gain momentum over the coming years as they represent a substantial competitive advantage, and are valued by consumers, particularly in the Western world.