Anything is possible if it exists in The Future. An appliance that washes and dries your clothes? The Future. Robots that re-enact episodes of Seinfeld on-demand in your living room? The Future. It's the ultimate catch-all for things we wish were true, but aren't quite a reality just yet — and the very essence of CES.
It's why every year, at one of the industry's largest conventions, we're treated to a familiar sight — the digital home. We're promised washing machines that tweet and ovens that text. The future, we're told, will be connected, joining all our household appliances in some idealistic digital lifestyle. The problem is, it won't work — not this year, and not next.
imagine a world" in which our appliances could do more extraordinary, internet-enabled tasks. That included the ability to download new wash cycles to a washing machines, or have an oven text message its owner when a roast was done cooking. That all sounded pretty cool to us — if only we had the infrastructure for it, that is.
The simple fact is, worldwide broadband and wireless penetration — even in developed countries like the United States — is not exactly flattering. As of June 2010, for example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked the US 14th in terms of fixed broadband penetration (Excel file). For every 100 inhabitants, 27.1 were broadband subscribers, compared with 37.8 in the number one-ranked Netherlands. Even countries like Canada and Iceland — whose population density is far lower than that of the US, have better broadband infrastructures. The point is, if you're trying to pitch a world of connected appliances to consumers, you'll have to actually connect them first.
robotic vacuum via smart phone is cool for about five minutes, until you remember why you bought an automated cleaning appliance in the first place. An oven that texts upon completion is, unfortunately, just a high-tech alternative to an egg timer. As cool and futuristic as these technological flourishes might sound, they do little to actually improve an appliances' most basic function.
Because, until the future catches up with us, that internet-connected dryer is still a dryer. It just has an IP address.