Intelligent technology is starting to take the domestic appliance market by storm, says Hayley Gilbert. Good knowledge of the latest technologies is essential to selling these high value items.
In a bid to make consumers’ lives easier, appliance manufacturers have introduced a wide range of high-tech programmes and features that practically do the thinking for you. In a nutshell, intelligent appliances are those with sophisticated electronic controls, sensors that assess how much water to use or how long to wash/dry/cook for, and automatic programmes that turn themselves on or off and do everything in between.
“The market for intelligent appliances is growing,” confirms Joan Fraser, product development and training manager at Smeg UK, “but is still limited among consumer groups. As with all advancements in technology, it takes a while to build trust among consumers to invest. Generally, intelligent appliances appeal to gadget enthusiasts, but when sold by a salesperson who understands the products and is able to demonstrate them properly, they will appeal to a far wider audience.”
Jane Massey, brand manager at Siemens, notes that it’s really only the premium products that fall into this category. “As a result,” she says, “these intelligent devices will be bought by the ‘early adopters’ – people who embrace new technology before most others and those with a high level of disposable income.”
Whirlpool launched three new cooking lines last year – Glamour, Fusion and Ambient – all of which include the brand’s next generation 6th Sense technology. Two sensors sense the weight of meat, fish and vegetables and monitor the oven temperature, adapting the cooking time and process accordingly for energy efficient cooking and perfect results. The system regularly feeds back the cooking time via a user-friendly touch control display. The Glamour range also features an I-Touch control panel that indicates when the pyrolytic oven needs cleaning.
Other manufacturers are following suit with a variety of programmes that are designed to take the guesswork out of cooking. Teka’s HKX790 multifunction oven boasts a personal cooking assistant function alongside automatic express pre-heating, a slow cook function and meat probe. De Dietrich features its exclusive Intelligent Control System (ICS) technology in both its 60cm DOP895 and DOP770X ovens. The premium DOP895 offers total automatic intelligent cooking and is perfect for the novice cook. Bosch is another premium brand to watch with its Logixx HBA58B650B single multifunction oven equipped with Auto Cook function.
“In terms of cooking, pre-programmable recipes are proving particularly popular,” confirms Rita Balestrazzi, marketing manager at Baumatic, “as they enable the user to cook their favourite recipes to perfection every time at the touch of a button, without having to refer back to the recipe book to check cooking times and temperatures.”
Smeg’s SC45MC combination microwave can identify cooking times simply by typing in a food type and weight, while Neff’s portfolio includes the top of the range B46W74 single oven with NeffNavigator control and superb graphic fascia. Miele’s H5681BP has a whole host of intelligent automatic programmes, while Hotpoint’s Intelligent Cooking System provides six cooking functions that recommend the best shelf position, temperature and cooking time for cakes, bread, roasts and fish. It’s a key feature of the Openspace OS897DIX oven, selected models in the Experience built-in range and the new Ultima 60cm freestanding cookers.
Hoover’s PRO HOS8077X multifunction pyrolytic oven not only offers 11 cooking functions but also comes with 40 pre-programmed recipes with the flexibility to meet all cooking needs.
These new technologies often go hand in hand with designer styling and none more so than the BO87KR built-in oven from the Gorenje by Karim Rashid collection. In aluminium with an LED light strip that can be alternated between seven different colours, it features the DirecTouch electronic programme module, which means that the oven is ready to go in three simple steps, as pre-set programmes automatically set the correct combination of heating elements, temperature and cooking time. It even enables you to store favourite settings in the memory for quick recall.
For customers who are keen to get into steam cooking, Amica’s 1143.4TpYX combination steam oven has 10 pre-set steam recipes as well as 24 other settings, powerful grill and meat probe, while Caple’s Sense SO109 steam oven offers 60 pre-set recipes.
Hobs and cooker hoods are also keeping up with these intelligent new technologies. To save time in the kitchen, consumers are increasingly being drawn to high-speed induction hobs, especially the new ‘zoneless’ models that detect where the pan sits in order to heat it up.
Cooker hood manufacturer Elica has recently launched Verdi, a vertically mounted hood with intelligent Chef-Control system, which chooses the most appropriate settings depending on what’s being cooked.
New for February 2011 is AEG’s Neue Kollektion hobs with intuitive TFT colour display controls, ‘touch control’ gas hobs and the Street Hood, which, with its ActiveHeat Sensor, doesn’t work any louder or harder than it has to. Instead, electronic sensors adjust the speed automatically based on the amount of fumes generated.
Washing machines and tumble dryers are also using intelligent features to save energy and water. Siemens’ i-Dos washer includes the world’s first integrated dosing system that will dose just the right amount of detergent per load, fully automatically and to absolute precision. “The i-Dos automatic dosing system has finely tuned sensors, which automatically register the amount of laundry and the different types of fabric contained in the load,” explains brand manager Jane Massey. “Even the degree of soiling can be determined. Based on these factors, the programme logic calculates the perfect washing sequence and the precise temperature control and carefully adjusts the laundry detergent dose administered in several steps.”
There are similar options available to suit all pockets. Whirlpool’s AWOE8760 washing machine has a detergent dosing recommendation system as well as 6th Sense technology, while the AQLF9D69 Aqualtis from Hotpoint automatically measures the right amount of liquid detergent and fabric softener for each wash from two integrated storage tanks that are pre-filled by the user.
Indesit’s new 9kg PWE9168S Prime washing machine has a Smart Technology weight sensor that detects laundry weight and sets the optimum wash time, amount of water and energy needed for the size of the load, while Hoover’s Dynamic 10 also does the same. “This ensures that the machine is always operating at optimum efficiency,” explains marketing director Steve Macdonald, “and enables the washer to operate with 69% less water and 42% less electricity when compared to standard machines.”
Sensor drying is also becoming much more sought after by consumers in a bid to reduce drying times and energy consumption, thus lowering utility bills in the process. These ‘set and forget’ machines monitor moisture and temperature levels inside the drum and sense when the load is dry.
Maximising food freshness with the minimum of waste has become the main concern for consumers when it comes to buying new refrigeration. The solution comes in the form of a range of intelligent fridges and freezers from all the main brands.
Whirlpool’s WBC3546A+NFCW features intelligent 6th Sense Fresh Control, which constantly monitors temperature and humidity levels throughout the fridge cabinet, while Neff’s CoolDeluxe range incorporates VitaFresh and
HydroFresh technologies as well as Dynamic cooling, which cools newly added food quickly and efficiently.
GE’s latest side-by-side models feature CustomCool bins, which offer individual settings for meats, fruits and vegetables. “What most of these new features have in common is that they offer greater precision and control,” explains David Garden, commercial director for GE at Glen Dimplex Home Appliances, “as well as intelligent ClimateKeeper systems, which carefully manage temperature to ensure high humidity in the fresh food compartment to keep food fresh for longer, electronic sensors that monitor temperatures for accuracy and consistency and multi-flow air towers that deliver cold air evenly throughout the appliance.”
Recent additions to market include Beko’s GNE114610X four-door fridge freezer, Baumatic’s BBC460SS blast chiller and the SBSes7165 from Liebherr, an American-style fridge freezer with integrated wine cabinet and BioFresh drawers to keep food fresh for up to three times longer than conventional fridges. Steve Woodworth, sales director at Liebherr, explains the benefits of another new appliance, the GP1466. “This model features SmartFrost Technology with only half the ice build up of other brands’ static freezers,” he says, “making defrosting easier and quicker. Intelligent electronics also allow you to monitor internal temperature via the magic eye temperature display positioned at the top of the unit. The GP1466 also features an astonishing 30 hours of safe-storage time in the event of a power failure, so even prolonged problems need not compromise your frozen food. With exceptionally low running costs and large enough for the average family, this is the ideal appliance for the eco conscious.”
• Knowledge is power when it comes to selling intelligent products so explain to the customer how these appliances will save time, how easy they are to use and how much they could save on utility bills.
• Discuss lifestyle habits and preferences with the customer to identify what technology may be of particular use.
• Be careful not to overcomplicate any explanations, as consumers tend to shy away from anything they think will make their life more difficult.
• Consider the layout and display of products carefully. Appliances should look stylish and desirable and be set out in such a way that will enable the customer to visualise them in their own home.
• Install working models so you can demonstrate the various features and programmes in action.
• Take advantage of manufacturers’ product training, POS material and support wherever possible.