Home items are getting smarter ... and creepier
One day, finding an oven that just cooks food may be as tough as buying a TV that merely lets you change channels.
Internet-connected “smarts” are creeping into cars, refrigerators, thermostats, toys and just about everything else in your home. CES 2019, the gadget show that opened on Jan. 8 in Las Vegas, showcased many of these products and included an oven that coordinates your recipes and a toilet that flushes with a voice command.
With every additional smart device in your home, companies are able to gather more details about your daily life. Some of that can be used to help advertisers target you — more precisely than they could with just the smartphone you carry.
“It’s decentralized surveillance,” said Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington-based digital privacy advocate. “We’re living in a world where we’re tethered to some online service stealthily gathering our information.”
Yet consumers so far seem to be welcoming these devices.
The research firm IDC projected that 1.3 billion smart devices will ship worldwide in 2022, twice as many as 2018.
Companies say they are building these products not for snooping but for convenience, although Amazon, Google and other partners enabling the intelligence can use the details they collect to customize their services and ads.
Whirlpool, for instance, is testing an oven whose window doubles as a display. You’ll still be able to see what’s roasting inside, but the glass now displays animation pointing to where to place the turkey for optimal cooking.
The oven can sync with your digital calendar and recommend recipes based on how much time you have. It can help coordinate multiple recipes, so that you’re not undercooking the side dishes in focusing too much on the entree. A camera inside lets you zoom in to see if the cheese on the lasagna has browned enough, without opening the oven door.
As for that smart toilet, Kohler’s Numi will respond to voice commands to raise or lower the lid — or to flush. You can do it from an app, too. The company says it’s all about offering hands-free options in a setting that’s very personal for people. The toilet is also heated and can play music and the news through its speakers.
Kohler also has a tub that adjusts water temperature to your liking and a kitchen faucet that dispenses just the right amount of water for a recipe.
For the most part, consumers aren’t asking for these specific features. “We try to be innovative in ways that customers don’t think they need,” Samsung spokesman Louis Masses said.
Whirlpool said insights can come from something as simple as watching consumers open the oven door several times to check on the meal, losing heat in the process.
“They do not say to us, ‘Please tell me where to put (food) on the rack, or do algorithm-based cooking,’” said Doug Searles, general manager for Whirlpool’s research arm, WLabs. “They tell us the results that are most important to them.”
A woman demonstrates the Artemis smart mirror at the CareOS booth during CES Unveiled at CES International in Las Vegas. The interactive mirror has video capture, virtual try-ons, facial and object recognition, and can give the user video instruction on specific makeup products, among other things.