If it's an appliance, network it. That's the message coming out of this year's CES show in Las Vegas as consumer electronics and computer companies band together to create smart devices for the home that they claim will make our lives easier and give us more leisure time.
Computing and software giants such as Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Cisco and Intel together with consumer electronics manufacturers including Sony, Panasonic, Whirlpool, General Electric, Bosch and Casio are convinced that consumers will rapidly buy into the idea.
Bosch has been showing off a networked dishwasher that has a diagnostic feature that can immediately alert its service department if something goes wrong. The company claims it will cut down on human error where consumers cannot adequately explain faults, and will inevitably save the end user money.
Whirlpool has unveiled a networked fridge with a built-in Internet connection on the door. The intelligent fridge can recognise when you have run out of a product and order it for delivery from the supermarket. The Internet connection is a detachable computer pad on the front door.
Panasonic has a Virtual Chef Interactive Microwave oven which can record a recipe from a TV cookery show that you might be watching in the kitchen, or download it from the Internet and display it on-screen at another time. It can even suggest a recipe from ingredients you have in your fridge.
These are just some of the home gadgets on show. Not all will come to market, but analysts are still predicting that the market will be huge. The Yankee Research Group estimates that 9.5 million US households will have home networks by 2003.
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