Siemens shows off iPad-controlled homeConnect appliances

You use your mobile device for pretty much everything these days, right? So why not the kitchen? That was part of Siemens' pitch today at IFA -- the ability to control your cooking and dish washing from afar. The company debuted homeConnect, a "networked kitchen," which lets homeowners check on their energy consumption, shut down appliances remotely, receive notifications when the washing is done and view the contents of their fridges in real time -- with the help of internal cameras trained at the food. By downloading recipes from the internet, users can also import temperature and cooking times. This isn't the first time we've seen some kitchen-based connectivity, of course -- LG debuted the similar smartphone-based Thinq line at CES earlier this year.

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IFA 2011: Siemens showcases the networked kitchen
The future moving in: Switch off the oven or monitor the power consumption of appliances remotely

The kitchen is still one of the few places that is not networked – not yet at least. Siemens will be demonstrating at IFA 2011 that the technology is already available: The oven is controlled using a tablet PC, the power consumption of appliances monitored and the fridge asked whether there is enough milk. Apart from making appliances easier to use and saving time, these applications can reduce costs by leveraging cheaper tariffs available through new technologies in the smart grid.

In a few years consumers will be able to operate their household appliances via smart phone, tablet PC, notebook or TV set – with access to a host of handy functions. Siemens will be showcasing how it is all possible at IFA 2011 on Booth 101 in Hall 1.1. Here visitors will be able to use a remote control to operate various household appliances, such as a washing machine, dishwasher and hob, using an iPad. Recipes can be downloaded from the internet including preparation tips, while the oven automatically imports the correct temperatures and times. To check whether you already have a particular ingredient, the iPad displays real- time images from inside the fridge. The user can check the current energy consumption and the program status of the household appliances, and is notified when, for instance, the washing machine has finished. The appliances automatically notify the owner of any need for servicing or repairs, with short videos providing instructions on how to use the appliance, say when topping up the dishwasher salt. Finally, all the appliances can also be switched off remotely – after all, better safe than sorry.

More than five years ago, Siemens was the world's first manufacturer to market a networked appliance portfolio based on Powerline technology (networking via the power network). Today the trend is toward wireless networking, with appliances being controlled via a smart phone or tablet PC. The announced energy turnaround and the increase in electricity from wind and solar power mean that flexible electricity tariffs will be available in future. Washing machines can, for instance, be switched on during cheap-rate periods. Such developments will pave the way for new technologies in the smart grid.

Consumers are altering their behavior
Yet are consumers willing in the first place to alter their behavior accordingly? A study conducted by BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH and power utility E.ON addressed this issue. Participating households shifted half of all their washing and dishwashing requirements to other times of the day to take advantage of cheaper tariffs, managing to save 25 percent of their electricity costs compared with the standard tariff. However, they tended to overestimate the savings associated with flexible electricity usage. Although many consumers are keenly interested in the issue of energy costs, they often lack any detailed knowledge of their electricity tariffs. Given that consumers are, however, willing to alter their behavior to take advantage of flexible tarifs, Siemens will continue to work consistently on equipping household appliances with relevant smart functions.

Tariff structure aside, modern, energy-efficient household appliances can still save a great deal of electricity. Consequently, more and more customers are taking note of energy classes. According to a study by Ipsos on the image of leading home appliance manufacturers, Siemens holds a leading position among brands that are thought of as energy- efficient. Over the past 15 years, the manufacturer has managed to substantially reduce power consumption with all large household appliances: From around a third for ovens to around two thirds for freezer- refrigerator combinations. The new, power-saving coolEfficiency series of cooling products fulfils without exception the top Energy Efficiency Classes A+++ or A++.