THE RIGHT CONNECTION
Kohler is using IoT solutions to allow homeowners to run integrated kitchen and bathroom systems with voice command and motion control
Intentionally ubiquitous and unobtrusive, modern technology deeply permeates our lives, often insinuating itself in areas where we least expect it. In recent years, smart home devices have become the common interface between us and our daily routines, from listening to world news, to connecting with peers, and accomplishing a variety of tasks, that it has somehow become unimaginable to function without them.
Ms. Angel Yang, president for Kitchen and Bath APAC at Kohler Co., acknowledges the important role of technology in everyday life, and how it has now become essential to “bridge the gap between autonomy and design by making homes more tech-savvy without compromising style.” She is at the right place and time to be talking about high-level design and technology integration for homes, specifically for kitchens and bathrooms, with the launch of the Kohler Design Experience (KEC).
Since September 2017, KEC Singapore – the first in the Asia Pacific region and one of seven worldwide – has been providing design professionals and consumers with an immersive experience of the entire range of Kohler bathroom and kitchen systems, allowing them to observe at close range how technology has improved not only the functioning of each individual product, but also how the introduction of connectivity has empowered them to deliver an enhanced and seamless performance.
Integrated High-Tech Solutions
Kohler Konnect, explains Ms. Yang, uses advanced technology such as automatic speech recognition (ASR) to receive, process and execute spoken commands automatically. For example, this allows a consumer to instruct a virtual assistant to run the bath virtually
– at the right water temperature – using an embedded technology.
Kohler’s internal technology team develops the IoT technology on which the products run. “We work with different platforms to activate the system depending on where our products are used; in the US, we are on Amazon, and in China we are on Baidu.” In Singapore, the team is currently exploring a few candidates for a platform on which they can work.
“The whole solution (technology) is a long journey, but it is one that is a major focus for development. We need to get the technologies connected, and more importantly, we need to get them connect to real people’s lives – so that they will dramatically improve.” Technologies’ penetration of people lives is customized and highly personalized, M. Yang says. With it, one feels “very comfortable to go home or to be home. Everything in your home is set according to your personal choice: When you wake up in the morning and you go to the bathroom, the light setting is pre-set according to your preference”.
Most importantly, technology must be easy to use, Ms. Yang points out. “Some people like to use apps on their mobile phone, so we developed an app, Kohler Konnect, that people can use to control their bathroom systems through voice command, hands-free motion control, and personalized presets. They can download the apps on both iOS and Android platforms.”
Harness Growth In Asia
Kohler, a 145-year-old US company, has about 300,000 employees and over 50 manufacturing sites worldwide. Among its focus is to harness growth outside the US, particularly in Asia. “At Kohler, we provide thoughtful design and technologies that offer convenience and functionality to enrich the lives of our consumers, making bathing and cooking more fulfilling for every discerning customer,” says Ms. Yang.
Since showing the entire Kohler Smart Home Solution suite to designers and consumers, Ms. Yang confirms receiving a lot of interest from property developers. Connectivity is a feature among new, high-end residential developments in Singapore, she points out, adding that they are ready to supply the products that will work with them. Other markets in the region may be slower in accepting leading-edge technology integration, but Singapore as a leader in smart technology is ready for it.
Ms. Yang also believes being in Singapore is important for the brand’s growth. She cites Singapore as a hub for design in Asia, where international design talents have set up shop. The project may be in Vietnam or Indonesia, or even as far as the US and UK, but often there is participation from design practice based here, she emphasizes. “The number of projects and the population may be small compared to other countries, but Singapore is the place that a lot of other markets are watching.” Kohler’s Southeast Asia headquarter is in Singapore, where an entire functional team serves the needs of specifiers and customers.
Developers, architects and designers are the key focus of the KEC, what with its range of technical displays, but consumers are definitely welcome to walk in and go through the interactive displays, Ms. Yang reiterates. “In terms of retail, Kohler products are available in the outlets of our retail partners, but we welcome consumers to come here. If you follow our social media, for example, our Facebook posts, you will find a lot of interactive and informative posts – the reason is we want to get connected to the customers.”