The Internet of Things, the systems and sensors that will make everyday appliances into smart devices, could be worth as much as $1.7 trillion by 2020. But for now, companies are looking for simple smart features that can entice consumers to make a purchase.
Whirlpool believes it's found a great reason to connect your appliances to the Internet. The company announced a new smart washer and dryer at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that connects to Amazon's Dash Replacement Service, meaning its latest washing machine can prompt users to order more detergent when it's running low.
Whirlpool (whr) also announced a connected dishwasher on Monday, although that doesn't have a release date yet. Whirlpool's Smart Top Load washer and dryer will cost $1399 each when they go on sale later this year.
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The Amazon technology that powers Whirlpool's smart washer and dryer was released in 2015, and took the form of a physical button first. Amazon sold physical, Wi-Fi connected Dash Buttons which enabled customers to re-order a specific product with a single tap.
Amazon later turned its Dash buttons into a service other developers could plug into their apps, and that's what Whirlpool has done. The Whirlpool Smart Kitchen Suite app, once configured, will send a push notification to users' phones when it senses its supplies running low. From there, it's a simple confirmation to ensure a new order of soap from Amazon is on its way. Beyond reordering supplies, the Whirlpool app can also track how many wash cycles the connected appliances have run, and users can start a wash cycle remotely as well.
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The Amazon (amzn) partnership isn't the first time Whirlpool has linked its appliances to the IoT. Last year, Whirlpool's appliances gained a feature that allows them to connect to a Nest thermostat, so it knows when you're home or away. Plus, Whirlpool's app allows its washing machines to download custom wash cycles for unusual or hard-to-clean clothes.
For consumers, the danger when purchasing durable appliances like Whirlpool's is that the smart connected parts of the device will become obsolete quicker than the appliance's lifespan. Many households hang onto washers and dryers for decades, and there's no guarantee that Amazon will continue to offer the Dash Replacement Service for years to come.
Still, reordering detergent and dish soap appears to be a smart entry-level feature for connected appliances — your washing machine telling you that you need more soap is certainly a more logical feature than a refrigerator that displays your Google Calendar.