CES ‘Internet of Things’: Smartphone-synced crockpots, gesture-control thermostats and other visions


Attendees use a cell phone to operate an LG Smart Oven during the 2013 International CES at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 8, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)
January 8, 2013

In a matter of months, busy cooks might be able to program their crockpots and rev up their coffee-makers -- through their phones.

It’s not “Smart House,” exactly, but the deal between appliance giant Jarden and high-end electronic manufacturer Belkin moves home tech closer to the so-called “Internet of things.” In that buzzy and convenient sci-fi future, consumers will control everything from heat to household appliances on their computers and smartphones — at least according to several manufacturers, who are announcing a laundry list of new products and hosting an “Internet of Things Consortium” at the Consumer Electronics Show this week.

The Belkin/Jarden deal is one of several in this space. According to a press release, the companies will begin offering Internet-connected appliances such as coffee machines and crockpots by the end of the year, with more products coming in 2014. Jarden will also introduce some Internet-enabled devices from its Sunbeam and Oster brands, which include small kitchen appliances, heaters and air conditioners, electric blankets and irons.

LG, Cisco and IBM also announced new contributions to the “smart home” of the future, though some are updates to products we’ve seen before. LG’s line of interconnected smart appliances -- which already included a fridge that tracks its own contents and a smartphone-controlled vacuum -- saw a slight facelift and better smartphone controls this year.

Cisco promised a new mobile-controlled home-security system with AT&T. And IBM launched a project that will eventually let people turn up the heat or unlock their doors through gestures, not just devices. Last year another smart thermostat, called the Nest, created such a stir that it sold out soon after going online and left customers waiting weeks for their orders.

Customers will also have to wait for some of these new products, which are still months, or even years, away. But for the impatient among us, there is a hack: Belkin already makes a $50 Wi-fi-connected plug, called the WeMo Switch, that can talk to smartphones apps and a variety of other programs through the service If This Then That.

So even though a smartphone-controlled crockpot isn’t on the market yet, you can still turn yours on with an app, tweet or a text or a Tumblr post. The Internet of Things may be closer than we think.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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