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[LG USA] Simplicity Wins in Smart Home
By Weili Lin 2014-11-12
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LG surprised the smart home market with its HomeChat, using the IM platform LINE, a popular mobile messenger app, as its communication medium to let users easily communicate, control, monitor and share content with LG home appliances. SMAhome talks with David VanderWaal, Head of Marketing of LG USA about their view on smart home development.

Q: What is the design idea behind HomeChat?
LG’s goal always is to make smart appliances easier to use. We’ve employed NLP (Natural Language Processing) technologyand the popular messenger application LINE to allow users to communicate, control, monitor and share content with LG’s latest smart appliances. It’s a language that just about everyone is familiar with these days – simple texting.

That was a big improvement from the year before in terms of being able to use the code that allows you to make an instant app right on your phone. Instead of having to go and download any kind of app, you'll be able to hold your phone right up to the appliance. It will instantly recognize and then download the app right on to your phone for you. It’s been a great improvement since you can now use our QR code to download the HomeChat app instantly to your smartphone. Simply hold the phone to your LG smart appliance to establish personal recognition and connectivity.

Q. What is the most promising product in the LG smart home lineup?
A: I’d have to say, smart television with LG’s new webOS platform that makes smart TV truly simple and intuitive for the first time. But looking at the appliances we currently offer, believe the thing that’s brought the most consumer benefit is the fridge, because its features are helping families solve some of the most common problems. For example with built-in internal refrigerator camera positioned at the top of the main compartment, users can monitor exactly what’s inside their refrigerator on their smartphones or tablets at any given time.

Q: Your views on the smart home market?
The Internet of Things, which is the vogue right now because a lot of people are talking about it, is still primarily for early adopters. I believe the more people talk about it, the more it will allure bigger brand makers from entering the smart home field. Beginning from the early stages of market demand followed by product design and eventually development, these are the phases needed to make smart home popular. NEST, which is currently one of the most recognized names on the market, started out the same way. So as long as there is something to talk about it, the trend will not go away.

Smart home is actually not moving quite as fast as predicted, but certainly, within the next decade, it will become a reality. It's hard to know exactly what that reality will look like, so that’s why LG is constantly reinventing itself. Nobody really knows what the future has in store But LG is going to develop our appliances and televisions to work within that evolving ecosystem.

Q: What is holding consumers back?
Smart home is still kind of complicated for the average consumer, and frankly, I don't think we've made a tremendous amount of progress as an overall connected home industry in the last 18 months. There are a lot of choices and a lot of complicated things for the user to comprehend. With those options, as a consumer, you're going to end up an early adopter who doesn’t really understand the technology well. Right now, I think we're still kind of stuck in the same spot. Somebody's got to make this whole thing much easier for the consumer with just plug n' play, but that solution just isn't there yet.

In the aspect of marketing, as long as retailers and brand makers start telling stories and all the benefits smart home brings, the adoption curve will accelerate. People are simply frightened of technology, and although they want it, they want it to come in simple forms. For it to prevail, simplicity is the key factor. Apple figured that out early on, and to a certain degree Google also did get it right. I believe we are on the right track.

Looking from the price perspective, having Wi-Fi and smart capabilities will not drive the price range up as much as consumers might think. Take our smart refrigerators and washing machines as examples, integrating smart solutions into those appliances didn’t drive up our price tag, and yet on retail they can be had for around two hundred dollars. It’s fair to say that price isn’t the real issue that hinders smart adoption. As a marketer, I find that worrisome because of the misconception it conveys.

On the flip side, growing consumer interest in energy efficiency and reducing GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions should factor prominently into the future of the smart home. Connected Energy Star appliances, paired with whole-home energy management systems and even demand-response Smart Grid/Smart Meter capabilities, will be part of the mix.

What’s really important is getting the technology to a point where it can be understood by the mass public, and to convey the message that smart home can mean fun, simple and attainable.


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