Five consumer tech trends spotted at IFA fairs

Cheap home appliances connected to the Internet will be linked to the development of many – rather not so cheap – online subscription services, including those ordered through home robots using voice interface. After IFA 2016 fairs it is quite clear what kind of household appliances may become the standard over the next decade, even though today they still may look like quite futuristic.

Internet of Things – or, better to say: Internet of household appliances – closely associated with development of businesses based on online shopping and delivery services, voice interface, devices that provide a sense of self-sufficiency, and accessories of virtual reality beyond the VR-these goggles – these are five trends spotted at IFA fairs that run in early September in Berlin.


1. The high price of cheap Internet of Things


A. – Every device that we connect to the electricity grid, will be very soon connected to the internet as well. There will be also gadgets and devices that will go online without us, the consumers, even knowing about that – tells Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer at F-Secure at IFA+ Summit.

– This could be really simple devices such as a toaster or a lightbulb. [Manufacturers] will do that to gather information about the usage, to gather analytics about how much our devices are being used, and where they are being used. [They want to know for marketing purpose whether they] have more customers toasting bread on the East side of Berlin or on the West side of Berlin – adds Mikko Hyppönen.

Not all devices will go online with a benefit to consumers. Some of them will go online not to benefit us, but to benefit their manufacturers.

– Why would anybody like to hack my fridge? Hackers are not interested in my fridge or a toaster, but they are interested in the network that they are connected to. Hackers do it to steal something. When you have a typical network, a home or an office network, it is typically well secured. And then an employee brings to an office an IoT coffee maker and connects it to the Wi-Fi. That is the weakest point in the corporate network. In the future, remember not only to patch your computer, phone and tablet. Remember to also patch your lightbulb – concludes Mikko Hyppönen.


B. – From the business point of view, we will see any non-connected product as a lost business opportunity – tells David Cronström (on the video below, first from the right), Head of Innovation/Connectivity, Electrolux, on the panel session titled ”Smart World: Home Appliances”.

– It looks like the value of the connected consumer compared to the not-connected one is twice higher. If this assumption becomes real, we can imagine that some companies will release products that are much cheaper than non-connected versions or even for free – tells Cyril Brignone (in the centre), CEO at Arrayent.


2. Merging products with services


A. At some markets, there are washing machines that can automatically place an order for a detergent, as well as refrigerators connected to an online supermarket. Now, it is time to merge an oven with IoT and home delivery services. But instead of ordering food from the control panel of an oven, it is about programming the kitchen device from an external mobile app which is an online grocery store and a cookbook in one.

Bosch announced at IFA to cooperate with HelloFresh, an online deli offering a regular supply of fresh food. Every box containing the right proportions of ingredients includes recipes. Printouts are, of course, also available on HelloFresh mobile app.

Soon, every recipe available in the HelloFresh app will also include a one-click button to program the Bosch connected oven. The kitchen appliance will heat up to a temperature perfectly matched to a dish from the recipe and then will work for an appropriate time.


B. It came out that a direct collaboration with delivery services is also as a business opportunity for Daimler, the owner of Smart car brand. Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Managers at Daimler AG announced the start of “Ready to Drop” service provided in cooperation with DHL.

An order placed online with “Ready to Drop” option will be delivered by DHL courier directly to the trunk of our parked Smart car (or picked-up from it if we want to return something).

You can use your car as a personal mobile mailbox – tells Dr. Dieter Zetsche in his keynote.

The courier will open doors by the application using a one-use code. At the beginning of the “Ready to Drop” service will be available in Stuttgart, Germany, and then will start in Cologne and Berlin. Next year, the service will be also launched in Mercedes cars.


3. In-home robots with the voice interface


A. Visitors of Bosch and Siemens booths (both companies belong to BSH) could meet Mykie, a concept of a smart kitchen assistant.


Mykie responds to the user’s voice by means of voice recognition. It listens to users and answers their simple questions about the weather or the latest stock market prices. When communicating with the user, the robot uses his voice and head movements, as well as simple facial expressions and varying light signals to express his ”emotions”.

The user can use Mykie to conveniently control the entire range of home appliances functions. Mykie knows, for example, what’s stored inside the connected fridge, and how much longer the cake still has to bake in the oven.

Alternatively, additional services such as recipe ideas or suggestions from online cooking shows can also be called up. If ingredients are still missing, they can be ordered online via Mykie and delivered directly. Mykie sends the recommended settings from the recipe straight to the connected appliances.


B. Sony is another company that showed a prototype of a cute-voice-controlled-robot with mesmerising eyes.

Sony’s Xperia Agent is going to be not only a digital assistant like Siri and Alexa, that answers simple questions and lets you complete tasks like checking your calendar and making phone calls. By being connected to a sound system, a TV, and a coffee machine, Xperia Agent is able to play music (play the video above to see how it dances!), display movie trailers, and, by combining the robot with Nestlé Japan, even order a coffee.

The date of launching final versions of Mykie or Xperia Agent on the consumer market was not given.


4. Illusive self-sufficiency


A. Grundig HerbGarden is a prototype of a kitchen appliance that enables users to grow fresh and organic herbs at their own home. Indoors and without pesticides.

HerbGarden features three sets of growing chambers and a LED light box. Through a mobile app, the user can monitor and control the humidity, as well as track what herbs are growing, when the last harvest was, approximate harvest time for each item, its temperature, and the remaining water levels. It also allows owners to perfectly grow the amount of herbs needed, with the security of knowing exactly when harvesting is.


B. Some time ago household appliances that can be programmed in advance to work at night, when the price of electricity is lower, became standard. Now the trend is reversed.


With the growing popularity of home renewable energy installations, Siemens introduces FlexStart system that enables programming dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers to start working during the daytime, when the sun shines most strongly, and home solar panels produce the greatest amount of power, or when the household wind turbines operate the most efficient way. The user can select the latest time at which the dishes or clothes should be clean and dry, and the devices themselves will start working at the right moments.

As soon as the program is active, it reverts to these cheaper energy sources. If the decentralised electricity is insufficient to get the selected appliance up and running within a set time window, the power required is covered by conventional sources.


C. The self-sufficiency trend is also well represented by Lifepack, the anti-theft backpack designed with mobile working and digital nomads in mind.


The integrated Solarbank, which is a 3-in-1 power bank, solar panel, and a Bluetooth speaker, stores six charges for a smartphone, generates one extra smartphone charge per four hours of sunlight and provides with great-sounding audio for 96 hours from the full battery.


5. Virtual reality beyond VR goggles


A. During the IFA, the list of winners in UX Design Awards competition was announced. The main, golden prize went to ICAROS.

The ICAROS is a fitness device and gaming controller in one gadget. It is designed to train muscles and stimulate the capability of reaction and balance. User’s movements on the ICAROS control and determine the virtual flight path or diving path in the VR game.


B. Virtual reality is not only about visual effects. In this immersive format, equally important is the 3D sound.


Sennheiser’s AMBEO VR Mic, developed in conjunction with VR content producers, and designed for professional VR production, captures high-quality audio in 360 degrees. The ambisonic microphone is fitted with four capsules in a tetrahedral arrangement. This special design allows you to capture the sound that surrounds you from a single point in space. As a result, you get fully spherical ambisonics sound to match a VR and 360 content.


C. In the field of amateur 360 videos, a device that is definitely worth mentioning is Insta360 camera.


Insta360 Nano is the world’s first HD camera to shoot and live-stream high definition virtual reality and panoramic stills and videos directly from an iPhone. Additionally, for panoramic action shots or videos the Insta360 Nano can be attached to a bike or boarding helmet, drone or selfie stick. Plus, the Insta360 packaging is easily converted into a Google Cardboard VR viewer.


Conclusion after IFA 2016

After listening to the above quoted, as well as many other experts participating in the IFA Keynotes and IFA+ Summit, as well as visiting hundreds of exhibitors, I found the following conclusion: in the twenties of the twentieth century, offline household appliances, that will not generate any data about the user, will not use a microphone to listen to him or her, and will not push anyone to online subscription services with delivery (which means, they will not generate any extra income for service providers nor manufacturers), will become a luxury.

All pictures and videos by More photos and videos I took at IFA 2016 you can find on my Instagram profile.

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