A major small appliance manufacturer is betting that a few smart products with real, tangible benefits might be what it takes to get consumers on board with the so-called "Internet of Things."
So far, consumers have been reluctant to embrace smart home technology, largely because the value of an internet-connected appliance isn't always immediately apparent.
For instance, a fridge with a Twitter app on its tablet-like touchscreen isn't exactly the most useful thing in the world. But a crock pot that can automatically adjust its cooking time to match your schedule, or a space heater that tells you if it's been left on? Products like those make the benefits of a smart home immediately apparent.
They're coming soon. Jarden—which owns brands like Mr. Coffee, Crock-Pot, Holmes, Rival, and Sunbeam—has partnered with Belkin, whose plug-and-play WeMo smart home system already lets users control WiFi-connected outlets and switches with a smartphone app.
Jarden is bringing some small appliances into the WeMo fold, including a space heater, air purifier, and coffee maker. They'll all interface with the existing WeMo smartphone app.
The first product to go on sale will be the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo, which is set to debut in April. It lets users control their slow cooker's timer from the WeMo app. Tell it what time you'll be home and it will automatically adjust the temperature so your meal will be done on time. If you're running late, just change your ETA in the app.
We already know what you're thinking: Isn't the whole point of a slow cooker to have a meal ready whenever you are, regardless of how long it takes?
True. But it is possible to overcook food in a slow cooker. Even if you set a timer to switch to "keep warm" for the last few hours, that late meeting might run longer than you expect, or traffic could get tied up worse than usual.
And while most people remember to turn off a space heater before leaving the house, we think that safety-conscious consumers would be willing to pay a little more for the extra peace of mind.
Because Jarden's smart appliances work on Belkin's existing standard, a company representative told us that future appliances could work even more closely with other WeMo-enabled products. For instance, a coffee maker could know to start brewing a cup when you turn on your bedside lamp in the morning. After all, that's the dream of the smart home and the Internet of Things—endless connectivity, working to make our lives simpler and better.