Connectivity, price dull smart appliance uptake

Lack of Internet penetration and high price hinder smart home appliance adoption in Asia, says analyst. Electronics manufacturers, however, remain optimistic about market.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

The smart home will not be a reality in Asia unless Internet connections across the different markets reach an optimal level and smart appliances become more affordable, noted an analyst.

In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, Jasmine Lim, regional account director at GfK Asia, said the smart home appliance market in Asia, excluding Japan and China, is not picking up due to low Internet penetration in emerging markets as well as the high price of such home electronics.

Smart appliances, said Lim, are electronics that are Internet-connected. This connectivity not only allows users to know what is happening in the house without being physically present, it also enables automation so that the appliances bring "maximum convenience" to the user. The owner of a smart fridge, for example, would be able to know the contents of the refrigerator and adjust the settings remotely such that the meat is defrosted by the time he reaches home.

Within the region, while countries such as Singapore are well-connected, other emerging markets do not have high Internet penetration, she noted, adding that this is a barrier to the adoption of smart appliances.

Meanwhile, some "big brands" are pushing smart home appliances by promising investments, but the price points are still too high, Lim pointed out. The market, she added, needs to "reach a critical point" where the prices start to drop, in order for mainstream acceptance of smart home products.

Lim believes smart home appliances will follow in the footsteps of smart TVs--the technology and benefits were introduced some time ago but adoption of smart TVs has only picked up recently.

Korean CE giants upbeat
Korean electronics giants Samsung and LG expressed their optimism toward smart home appliances, in separate e-mail interviews with ZDNet Asia.

A Singapore-based Samsung spokesperson shared that the company is seeing pickup of smart appliances "especially in more developed markets". For Samsung, a smart household device means it not only functions but adds value to consumers by being able to self-manage, connect, be remotely controlled and diagnose itself, she said.

She added that the company's smart products are IT-driven, interactive and can communicate with other devices, unlike conventional home electronics which are "function-driven".

Over at LG Electronics, a spokesperson observed that smart appliances are "relatively new" to the home appliance industry but the market segment is "nevertheless growing rapidly". Demand for smart appliances equipped with smart grid energy-saving features is also growing at a fast rate.

Peering into the crystal ball, he added that when all household appliances become network-enabled and converged with communication devices, new appliances with reinforced communication functions will be launched.

When asked how advanced smart appliances have become, the LG representative pointed to the "smart manager" feature found in its smart refrigerators. It helps owners to track, "wherever and whenever", the food items in the fridge and their dates of expiry, he said, adding the tool can also suggest recipes based on ingredients in the fridge.

The Samsung spokesperson cited "smart shopping", an e-commerce service currently available in South Korea and which the company has plans to launch worldwide.

"If you feel like having a glass of milk, you might open your fridge and find out you're out of milk. Typically, you've got two choices: either put your shoes on and go to the grocery [store] or simply forget about it," she said. But the "smart shopping" service provides a third option as consumers are able to shop for a new carton of milk right from their kitchen, she added.

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