Several big names in the appliance industry, including Samsung, Haier (GE Appliances), American Standard, Electrolux, Trane, and Arçelik, have banded together to create a standards organization to build a common language for smart features that will work across the participating brands. The organization is called the Home Connectivity Alliance and it hopes to have something to show for its creation in mid-2022.
The HCA will set features for various appliances, including air conditioners, dishwashers, ovens, cooktops, range hoods, washers, dryers, water heaters, refrigerators, robot vacuums, televisions, etc air purifiers, and humidifiers/dehumidifiers.
The organization is both a place for manufacturers to discuss use cases and considerations and build out these common data models that will allow appliances to interoperate using a cloud-to-cloud connection. This means a Samsung fridge might be able to share data with a GE oven, or a Trane HVAC system might be able to tell a GE humidifier when to turn on during the winter heating season. I’m not sure why my fridge would want to talk to my oven. Still, I do think it would be interesting to have all of these large electricity-consuming appliances talking to the home’s electrical management system. I know that system doesn’t exist yet, but it will soon.
Initially, there are plenty of practical use cases, such as letting a washer from Brand X communicate through a dryer from Brand Y. If the washer tells the dryer that I just washed a permanent press load, it could ensure the dryer doesn’t get too hot and wrinkle the clothes, without my intervention. Or when I load the dishwasher at night and turn it on, the dishwasher could alert my robot vacuum to clean the kitchen.
Yoon Ho Choi, the president of the HCA and the head of IoT business planning and partnerships at Samsung Electronics, says the organization wants to help make long-lived consumer devices connected to the cloud updatable, more useful, and able to communicate with one another. This communication won’t be at the radio level or through some kind of universal app. Instead, the goal is to build a common data model that lets a device such as a washing machine communicate that it is a washing machine and share its sensor data in a format that can be understood across brands.
If this sounds familiar, it’s similar to the Matter protocol for the smart home. Except with Matter, the focus is on control of devices through a unified app or digital assistant. The HCA is more concerned with creating use cases and data models to enable them across the apps offered by the appliance maker, a smart home platform, or other options. Choi also mentioned that the organization has a big focus on safety, and is in talks with UL.
The HCA is at the early stages but has an impressive list of members so far, and I’d like to see some common use cases emerge around cooking, energy-saving, and perhaps resource conservation. In ten years, as droughts become more common and water rationing occurs, smarter appliances could communicate together to allocate water between them optimally, for example. I’d also like to see Whirlpool, LG, and other popular appliance makers join.
The pain point the appliance industry is trying to solve here isn’t as acute as the pain that has led to the creation of the Matter standard, but I would love to avoid the frustration of too many siloed smart home ecosystems before it became such a sore spot. Perhaps the HCA can forestall that sort of drama with home appliances, especially as it’s becoming more and more difficult to purchase a “dumb” appliance nowadays. Additionally, because appliances typically are expensive and replaced in seven-to-ten-year cycles, it’s not like a consumer will buy a new dryer once they have settled on a smart home platform that works for them.
It’s better to get this right in the beginning. Let’s see if the HCA can do that and if it helps drive adoption.