LG Homechat: Talking Tech
Technology that talks
During CES in January 2014, LG announced a service that would allow users to text their appliances via the LINE messaging app, and by September, their first range of “smart” appliances, which include the HomeChat service, were available to buy.
The range of appliances that were previously only available in the LG home market of Korea include:
- A washing machine that responds to chat messages – can be activated remotely so that loads are cleaned and finished before getting home from work.
- Fridge with a camera – the fridge has a wide-angle camera that takes a picture of its contents every time the doors are opened and closed, and sends the latest image to you (upon request) so you know the items to buy when going home.
- And an oven/microwave integrated with Wi-Fi and NFC – the oven/microwave comes with recipe suggestions, informs you of the necessary ingredients to prepare certain dishes, and even auto-selects the right cooking settings.
How it works
Each appliance is activated and controlled via a couple of apps, as well as chat sessions on “Line” – a popular messaging app with hundreds of millions of registered users. The HomeChat app makes it possible for users to communicate with these smart appliances as if chatting with a friend. It works fast, flawlessly, and makes doing mundane tasks more fun. There is minimal delay between sending the first message, the smart appliance replying, and then responding by beginning the assigned task.
The chat service comes with a Quick Button that reveals frequently-used features for each appliance, like ‘Start Cooking’ or ‘Stop Cleaning’ as well as three different modes that let you use your appliances while you’re away from home. HomeChat also makes use of 40 stickers available on Line, which you can use to customise interactions with your smart appliances.
How practical are talkative appliances?
The technology is quite exciting, as the washing machine, for instance, is capable of detecting stains on your clothing. In such a case, the appliance would send you a message informing you of its plans concerning that attire, to which you can reply with a ‘Yes’ or “No’. It is also very interactive. For instance, on your way home after work, you may decide to go via some shops, so you send a message to your fridge asking it what it needs. In response, the fridge would take a picture of the contents and send it to you, so you can see exactly what is needed.
Besides the HomeChat app, there are other apps that are specific to each smart appliance, which give you more control over each device. For instance, the refrigerator comes with Freshness Tracker software that provides information on items that have passed their expiry date, though the user should have input details about each product into the application when they were placed in the fridge.
The LG HomeChat service is fun, effective, and convenient, allowing you to get real-time information about your appliances. You can even get updates by asking your oven” “what are you doing?”
Getting on board
For this concept to work, all appliances must become smarter through the integration of RFID – radio frequency identification tags or something else that makes it possible to track different activities. Manufacturers of smart devices must also re-assure consumers of security concerns. The challenge will then be on the consumer’s side, since it will be quite expensive to replace your appliances with the ‘smart’ ones, to start using the HomeChat service.