Appliance makers sadden 50% of customers don’t turn on smart devices – Ars Technica

Illustration of a smartphone controlling a dishwasher
Zoom in / This hypothetical dishwasher owner is among the minority of smart appliance customers who receive the full value of their appliance, including timely reminders to purchase the company’s recommended dishwasher inserts and cleaning kits.

Dani Serrano/Getty Images

Appliance manufacturers like Whirlpool and LG just don’t get it. They added Wi-Fi antennas to their latest dishwashers, ovens and refrigerators and built apps for them, but only 50 percent or fewer of their owners turned them on. What gives?

The problem, according to the manufacturers quoted In a Wall Street Journal report (usually requiring a subscription), is that customers simply don’t know everything a manufacturer can do if users turn on a device that spins their clothes or keeps food cold; their products’ and allow companies to ‘send over-the-air updates’ and ‘sell relevant replacement parts or subscription services’.

“The challenge is that the consumer doesn’t see the real value that manufacturers see in terms of how that data can help them in the long run. So they don’t really think they’re spending time just turning it on,” said Henry Kim, U.S. director of LG’s ThinQ smart devices division.

LG told the Journal that less than half of its smart devices, which represent 80 to 90 percent of the devices it sells, are connected to the Internet. Whirlpool reported that “more than half” are connected. Wi-Fi-enabled smart devices may be connected when they’re first set up, but a new ISP, router hardware, or Wi-Fi password may take the device off the network. And the smart oven will likely be far down the list of devices to be reinstalled when that happens.

That means companies like Whirlpool are missing out on service revenue, which is increasingly important to manufacturers facing rising input costs, declining replacement purchases and hungry shareholders. vortex acquired recipe management app Yummly in 2017and its customers can sync a Yummly Pro subscription to the smart oven so it follows recipe instructions (which apparently sometimes needs to exceed “this level of heat”).

For its part, LG saw a gradual increase in water filter sales when it tracked the water volumes of plugged-in refrigerators versus non-plugged-in refrigerators, the company told the Journal. The two companies also proposed that connected customers be provided with new features, including safety alerts.

Whirlpool told the Journal that customers “have the option to opt-out or opt-out” of sharing data with the company. LG doesn’t offer that option, but Kim told the Journal that “all data is anonymous.”

While manufacturers blame technical limitations, some customers may simply be unwilling to provide companies with vague privacy policies or bad histories with security access to their networks.

In 2013, LG smart TVs were found to be uploading to their servers everything they do, including viewing files on USB drives. At the time, LG admitted it was collecting this data, but suggested the data was “non-personal” and was only used for ad targeting or as part of software projects that have since been discontinued. LG is far from alone Television producer to participate in automated content recognitionbut it is one of the select few that is also dishwasher safe.

More broadly, smart home (or Internet of Things or IoT) devices are all too often built with a “fetch, upload, whatever” mindset. Pick up trial models from iRobot/Roomba (for possible acquisition by Amazon). uploaded images of someone on the toilet to the cloud. Or any of the dozens of devices described in detail Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers studiesa Northeastern/Imperial College Surveyor the Mozilla Foundation “Privacy not included” menu. The problems are so widespread and varied that the White House has called for universal IoT security labeling.

Device makers want buyers to plug in their smart devices, but at least some may think they’ve done the smart thing by letting them work offline.

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