Consumers, ie all of us, seem to be too smart to buy excessively clever washing machines. Especially if they cost $1,699 and are only good for telling you by email or text that your clothes are ready to dry. As a Washington Post blog recently quoted a tech trends observer to say, “Have we gotten so pathetically lame that you need to be notified by an email that your laundry is done?”
So to the news that Whirlpool has discovered that Americans aren’t racing to the store to buy its “smart” washing machine. Or its “smart” dryer. The Post has Chris Quatrochi, Whirlpool’s global director of user experience and connectivity, confessing that the buyers of web-connected washers, more than a year after launch, are still “not at all widespread… Trying to understand exactly the value proposition that you provide to the consumer has been a little bit of a challenge.”
So do we really want the “Internet of Things”? Do we want homes that are so hi-tech that even the humblest toaster has its own web-enabled powers? Yes, if these smart devices are clever enough really to do something. So, a smart American washing machine would automatically transfer clothes to the smart dryer, which would fold the load afterwards.
In other words, we want labour-saving ways that save us more labour than before. A servant. Or a robot. We don’t really want an expensive web-enabled device that simply emails us to let us know it’s time to finish the job ourselves.