Partnering for Smarter Appliances


Many consumers dream of being able to control their appliances from a distance. They could turn on the oven to preheat remotely, or perhaps they want to check the status of the clothes dryer from another room in the house. Connected appliances have slowly been moving into the marketplace, but a recent announcement could speed their adoption.

IBM,, and Vodafone,, are working together to combine mobile communications and cloud computing technology, all for the purpose of remotely managing the smart home and connected appliances. The plan is to use M2M (machine-to-machine) technology to connect appliances wirelessly to the Internet. 

The two companies will show off the technology this week and next at the IFA conference in Berlin. Devices on display will include a washing machine enabled by mobile management, and other smart home devices connected by Vodafone’s Global M2M Platform running on IBM’s SmartCloud Service Delivery Platform.

IBM and Vodafone are also focusing on security for these connected appliances, saying security is an important first step for connecting devices to the Internet.

In the future, the companies anticipate their collaboration could result in allowing consumers to use their smartphones for remotely controlling a number of functions in the home. These tasks could include viewing a home’s energy consumption data; controlling security, heating, and lighting systems; and activating home appliances. Another goal is to allow manufacturers and service providers to collect data from the appliances. The information could potentially be useful for product development and maintenance. 

Many appliance manufacturers are interested in the idea of smart services, where a data connection allows for an ongoing link to the consumer’s product. Through data analysis, the manufacturer could anticipate problems with the appliances, allowing for the chance to perform preventative maintenance. This could result in additional revenue for the manufacturer, as well as reduced downtime for the consumer. 

IBM and Vodafone say they want to “provide the consumer electronics industry with an example of a truly global, open standards-based approach for smarter home connectivity and solutions.” While the idea of smarter appliances and more connected homes has been around for a while, this partnership could provide a needed boost for the market.

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June/July 2014
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