Product Report: Connected Appliances, Connected Music and Entertainment

Product Report: Connected Appliances, Connected Music and Entertainment

Whirlpool’s 6th Sense Live technology allows you to control your home appliances from your smartphone. Photo courtesy of Whirlpool.

What do dishwashers and other home appliances have to do with music and entertainment systems? They can all be controlled and connected with smartphones.

And you know how we all love our smartphones. (If you’re not selling homes by leveraging the smartphone culture, you better start.)

Important diagnostic notifications and energy-saving information can be sent from appliances to smartphones, allowing you to start or delay cycles, for example. Music from smartphones can be played wirelessly throughout the house, and when you sit down to the TV or a movie, companion remotes make channel surfing and quick home control adjustments easy.

As we said in this week’s newsletter intro, it’s all connected, baby!



Do Appliances Need a 6th Sense? Who really needs a smartphone app to see how their washer or dryer in running? Fair question. But with Whirlpool’s 6th Sense Live technology, homeowners can activate specific options when not at home, start and delay cycles remotely, see energy costs and track usage—and perhaps most importantly receive alerts if an appliance isn’t running well or requires maintenance. Friendly reminders or “nudges” even offer information about the status of the appliances for easy monitoring.

The front-loading Smart Duet WFL98HEBU clothes washer ($1,699) features an allergen cycle, steam clean option, and EcoBoost that uses less water and increases tumbling action, in addition to a Quiet Spin 360 technology, precision detergent dispensing and Laundry Apps, including features like Stain Assist and Hints & Tips that give practical advice on stains and laundry questions. (That would be lifesaver for this stain-prone scribe.)

The Smart Duet WEL98HEBU electric dryer (also $1,699) features moisture sensing to end the drying cycle without over drying, a steam cycle to relax wrinkles and refresh clothes, a noise reduction system and reversible door for opening to the left or right.

The WRL767SIAM French-door refrigerator ($1,999) has an Accu-Chill Temperature Management System that uses built-in sensors to measure the internal temperature and activate the compressor only when necessary. It also has LED interior lighting, a water filtration system, adaptive defrost to defrost only when necessary, and a Vacation Assistant to activate specific options when you’re not at home.

The WDL785SAAM dishwasher ($949) has a Tall Tub design with an additional 3 inches of interior space to load tall and odd-shaped items in both racks. It has Eco Wash Cycle and Eco Dry Options, and a triple filtration system to remove food particles and other soils. A soil sensor measures water clarity to determine how dirty the dishes are, then adjusts the cycle accordingly. There are also Smart Energy features, including Energy Advisor, Rate Revealer and Smart Delay (for use with utility smart grid programs like variable Time of Use rates).




Built-in Music Streaming

Today’s audio challenge for homebuilders: How do you provide homebuyers with the ability to wirelessly and conveniently stream music from their smartphones throughout the house—and with a built-in system that doesn’t require a rack of black boxes?

Leviton’s Hi-Fi 2 distributed audio system allows Bluetooth connectivity to smartphones to distribute that audio, with a distribution unit/amplifier that can be installed right in a Leviton structured wiring panel. Both 4×4 (four-zone, four-source) and 8×8 (eight-zone, eight-source) systems deliver 25 watts per channel, which is plenty for background music.

In each room where you want music, place a singe-gang-size wall-mounted Volume-Source Control (VSC) with an OLED readout, and a Remote Input Module (RIM) that allows you to plug in and control existing source equipment. A Bluetooth RIM for wireless streaming of smartphone music or streaming music apps like Pandora, Spotify and Rhapsody is optional. Standard Category 5 high-speed cabling connects the VSC and RIM modules, while standard 14- or 16-gauge speaker wire is used to connect speakers to the digital amplifier.

The system can be controlled with the included remote control or by free Android or iPhone apps. A driver for use with a Control4 home control system is also available.

HiFi 2 can serve as a standalone music distribution system or can be used with Leviton’s Omni home control systems and Lumina control systems to automate audio and other home functions and create “scenes” in conjunction with lighting and climate control.

In addition, a Leviton controller with a Two-Way Voice Module can be installed to broadcast system announcements over all audio zones.

Color change kits are also available for the wall-mounted volume source control and remote input modules. And a connected dock for iDevices can serve as a source and music library.




Smart but not Smartphone Control

Smartphone home control is great, but when you sit down to watch TV or a movie, you don’t want to be thumbing through pass-codes and apps.

Enter Pro Control’s RF (radio frequency) remote controls that can operate components without line-of-site and enact programmable scenes or “macros” of multiple commands, which are often required to turn on various components in a home entertainment system.

Think of them as universal remotes, but with home control brains in a processor that links components of home entertainment and other systems like lighting and whole-house music. The Pro24.r ($250) features one-way control with a customizable 2.4-inch LCD interface as well as “soft” buttons for custom labeling, color-coded buttons for DVR control and hard numeric buttons that are programmable. It communicates with the accompanying ProLink.r processor (also $250) that has four IR ports to connect components.

The Pro24.z ($450 plus $450 ProLink.z processor) has six IR outputs and offers bi-direction RF ZigBee two-way control, allowing users to view feedback such as song metadata, volume levels, and temperature from third-party components on their remote control. The remotes also have support for Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod touch applications.

And for those stubborn digital souls who can’t put down their mobile devices, an iPro.8 remote ($150) without a touchscreen serves as a companion to smartphone and tablet controls. They’ll never admit to it, but they’ll use it for simple functions like volume control and changing channels.


According to Pro Control, support for popular Z-Wave wireless products is coming in 2014.

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