• New prototype says smart appliances should be more useful, less flashy

Simple is Smart: Order Detergent Right From Your Washer

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New prototype says smart appliances should be more useful, less flashy

Imagine a washing machine that could order laundry detergent when you run out. Doesn’t that sound more useful than a refrigerator that can tweet?

Berg certainly seems to think so. The London-based firm helps companies connect their products to the cloud, and it recently released a case study with recommendations on how to better implement smart features in home appliances.

For the study, the company built a prototype "smart" washer out of an off-the-shelf washing machine—a Zanussi, from Italy. Its defining trait? Rather than putting the washer's internet connection front and center in the form of a tablet-like interface, the connection is embedded within the machine and largely automated. Makes Berg sound more like Borg, right?

In all seriousness, hiding smart functionality can make a big difference. A lot of the e-mails and comments we get regarding smart appliances say that consumers simply don't use "smart" features. Many customers feel that add-ons like internet connectivity just add expense and complexity instead of making life easier.

Berg wants to make smart features more subtle and more useful. For example, instead of an LCD screen, users might find that a simplified eInk display is easier on the eyes, more stylish, and easier to use. Perhaps the most interesting feature we saw was a push button on the machine that would automatically purchase more detergent through an online retailer.

Check this video for a more in-depth tour of the prototype's features:

Inevitably, there's concern that adding all this technology to a washer could negatively affect pricing and reliability. But in a blog post, Berg suggested that a detergent company might subsidize the cost—especially if it's their detergent that gets shipped when consumers press that button.

Regardless, this is undoubtedly an exciting new direction for home appliances. And as Berg's blog post says, "this will make for some profound weirdness."

Hero image: Berg

Jonathan Chan 21816c539e74e17e59c7fabaabc03c40?s=48&d=mm
Jonathan Chan grew up in Massachusetts and studied agricultural economics at the University of Connecticut. Before joining Reviewed.com, he's worked jobs as diverse as a ballot counter, an environmental lobbyist, and a math tutor.