The latest for the tech-obsessed homeowner: Wi-Fi fridges, washers and dryers | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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The latest for the tech-obsessed homeowner: Wi-Fi fridges, washers and dryers

TORONTO - For the Internet-obsessed homeowners who can't pry themselves away from Twitter for even a minute, there's now a Wi-Fi refrigerator with a screen on it.

Samsung is the first to the market in Canada with home appliances that connect to Wi-Fi and, in the case of its refrigerators, there are a number of built-in apps to use.

LG says it expects to release a line of "smart" washers and dryers in Canada sometime this year.

Samsung's wirelessly connected washing machine and dryer allow users to start or pause the machines remotely, or check the status of the cycle via a smartphone or tablet app.

"You might say, 'Well, who really wants to do that?'" says Warner Doell, Samsung's vice-president of home appliance sales and marketing.

"It's kind of a cool feature. You don't have to go running upstairs or wait for that tone or the beep you get from the machine. You can simply see where it's at in the cycle now. Now you're able to plan other things that you want to do."

Far more advanced is Samsung's Wi-Fi connected fridge, with its 20-centimetre touch screen that works like a tablet.

There's an app connected to Google Calendar to keep track of family appointments and events, an app for leaving onscreen notes to others, and a grocery manager that lets you build a digital inventory of food and drinks as you put them into the fridge. It also keeps track of expiry dates to prevent you from forgetting about the soon-to-spoil cheese hidden away.

An Epicurious app has access to countless recipes, and you can check the weather, read news from The Associated Press, or access Twitter right on the fridge.

When not in use, the screen can also act as a digital picture frame to display family photos.

"The extensive use of screens in our lifestyle is really at the forefront of all of this," says Doell in explaining the new product line.

"One of the key things that we find is that, particularly for early adopters, screens are proliferating throughout the home and we find that the early adopter is looking for more avenues to manage their life."

There's no special warranty covering the electronics on the new appliances, but Doell insists consumers needn't worry about the screens turning into a costly repair issue.

"Samsung has a lot of experience in screens, from televisions to smartphones, and because of our reliability and how we build our user interfaces we feel very confident in the performance of the product and really feel that consumers should not have to worry that there'll be any issues or failures related to that."

The fridge's screen works relatively well but isn't as responsive as you'd hope. It's common to push a button without getting a response and some features take a while to load.

While some apps may seem useful, they may be less practical in reality. The grocery manager seems like a neat way to keep track of what's in the fridge and what needs to be added to the grocery list, but it's a bit cumbersome to use. Having to manually add each grocery item to the app as it goes in and then remove it from the app after you consume it is a hassle. In the case of the Epicurious app, it's a great resource, but it might be annoying in some kitchens to have to keep walking back and forth from the fridge to the counter to read each step in a recipe.

And, of course, the Internet connectivity isn't a feature that's just thrown in as a free bonus — expect to pay a few hundred dollars extra for that functionality.

That money might be better spent on buying a cheap tablet like Google's Nexus 7 or Research in Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook to keep in the kitchen permanently, or even investing in a budget-priced laptop to leave on the counter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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