Source: AWE

Intelligentization has emerged as a trend crucial to the development of household appliances in China. After the laying of groundworks including Wi-Fi connectivity, a new round of intelligent upgrades surrounding functions has kicked off in sectors including the refrigerator, washing machine and air conditioner.

Smart refrigerator, a keystone of family health management

The intelligentization of the refrigerator has got early exposure among consumers, with its user-friendly prices, the integration of "hardware, platform, application and content", a diverse array of intelligent functions and improved interactive experience. Monitoring data from AVC shows that in 2018, market penetration of the smart fridges in brick-and-mortar market reached 20.0%, a year-on-year climb of 4.7 percentage points, while that for online market rose 3.6 percentage points to 13.7%.

Although the growth momentum is strong, the market penetration of smart refrigerator is relatively subdued. Used for food storage, refrigerator features low interaction frequency and around-the-clock operation, and has also once been perceived as the staple of kitchen economy. Yet, as of present, only a modicum of smart refrigerators have been equipped with a display module (a very small proportion with internal camera module), while the majority of intelligent fridges only boast Wi-Fi connection. Those armed with a display module offer a myriad of functions like shopping, video and audio entertainment, and voice interaction. At the same time, as smart kitchen appliance and other intelligent household appliances shift into high gear in development, the core status of the fridge in kitchen economy is gradually weakening.

Following advancements in 5G technology, home wide intelligentization becomes a future trend. Food storage and management will be done through image recognition rather than manual input, while a rich array of functions such as dietary health management will be incorporated to bolster the smart refrigerator as the keystone of family health management.

Smart washing machine embraces new opportunities brought by AI

Washing machine liberates hands and becomes a must-have in families. Amid the rapid development of intelligent appliances, intelligent laundry machines has switched into the fast lane between 2016 and 2017. Monitoring data from AVC reveals that as of December 2017, market penetration of intelligent washing machine in brick-and-mortar market surged by 14.9 percentage points year-on-year to 31.4%, with prices down from RMB 3,966 in 2016 to RMB 3,713 in 2017. However, compared to smart TVs which boast high frequency interaction, intelligent washing machines have not accomplished much in terms of user-experience enhancement, and people have gradually become more "rational" with regards to intelligent washing machines. As of January 2019, market penetration of intelligent washing machine in brick-and-mortar market dropped by 8.4% year-on-year to 22.5%, of which, the penetration rate of Wi-Fi-enabled smart washers slid by 8.3% compared to the same period last year.

As artificial intelligence and internet-of-things technology find further applications, the intelligent washing machine will soon embrace a new opportunity with its focus on user-experience. Currently, smart sensing technology has seen preliminary application in certain products. In the foreseeable future, this technology will surely play a bigger role in raising the safety and healthiness of the washing machine. Not only will future washers be able to measure the load and identify materials, they will provide the most suitable washing solution accordingly after analyze a wide range of parameters.

The era of IoT will soon be upon us, and washing machine is going to work as a key node in a smart household. Intelligent home appliance will no longer be a single smart machine but an entire ecosystem, and the mutual control, connection and integration between the smart washer and other home appliances will become a common setup.

Intelligent air conditioner could be a future direction

Driven by the wave of "intelligentization", air conditioning products have seen a bevy of smart developments such as long-distance remote control, voice control and human sensor technology. According to monitoring data from AVC, smart air conditioners are still in an early stage where machines are capable of long-distance remote control and simple human-machine interaction through network connection and smart mobile terminals. Compared to 2017, the growth of market penetration rate of smart air conditioners decelerated in 2018, but the penetration of intelligent air conditioners in monitored brick-and-mortar markets hiked by 7.1% to a rate of 33.3%.

In terms of scenarios and human-machine interaction, air conditioning sector is obviously less developed compared to other major appliances like televisions or refrigerators. Voice control-enabled air conditioners have strict requirements on voice loudness and distance, making it hard to meet user expectations, which consequently hampers the market growth. Some manufacturers have proposed the use of smart speakers to resolve this pain point. Human-sensor-enabled air conditioners employs infrared to monitor indoor or body temperature to realize automated temperature control, but the hefty price limits its acceptance in the market and hinders its mass adoption.

Following the spread of IoT and 5G technology, smart air conditioners will soon stride into an era of rapid advancement. In the future, the development of intelligent air conditioners will grow from temperature-adjusting machines to integrated smart air systems that can simultaneously and automatically monitor, control and process interior temperature, humidity in the air, air purity, and oxygen content.