Sink or Swim: The Coming Wave of IoT in the Appliance Industry

The Internet of Things (IoT) is here and it’s invading the appliance market. The two questions you need to ask yourself are these: Should I really be concerned?, and Are my company and I ready for this?


Should I be concerned? was also asked widely throughout another industry the IoT was forced upon a decade ago. The custom installation market (CEDIA) now specializes in home automation, home networks, and just about anything controllable in the home. But that market wasn’t always focused on these subjects. 


In the early aughts, residential automation systems and networks were only for a select few customers, and they were installed by a small margin of the CEDIA industry. But in 2003, a company called Control4 introduced a cost-effective, simple program for home automation. As this and more pre-IoT devices began invading the home, the CEDIA market and its installers and servicers were forced into the world of networking, whole house control, and automation. An industry settled comfortably into a world of home theaters, satellite and cable distribution, and devices was suddenly forced to rethink and retool its core business models. But with trial comes growth. Not only did the CEDIA market thrive and expand under this new evolution in the home, but CEDIA professionals have become known as the experts of the connected home.


Fast forward to 2014. IoT started making the rounds as a technological concept for the home. NEST had by now already shown its own success, and many were to follow, like WINK and GE. While some years ago, Sub-Zero and Wolf had toyed with connected appliances, the big names like Whirlpool, Samsung, and LG waited for their moment to truly show something innovative. Today Whirlpool, Samsung, and LG are touting an entire lineup of IoT connected appliances. They even boast cloud platforms and partnerships with NEST and WINK, the field’s pioneering brands.


If you’re an appliance industry professional, should you be concerned about all this? The answer is an undeniable yes. And to be clear, “concerned” does not need to mean “worried.” But you should be aware and preparing. So now on to the harder question…


Are you and your company ready for this? The pace that connected devices are invading and becoming commonplace in the appliance market is much more aggressive than it was for the CEDIA market. The time to prepare and educate servicers is almost to a state of urgency. I asked some appliance servicers about a simple scenario and the answer was not what I hoped to hear. The scenario goes like this: 


A client pulled out a connected appliance for cleaning and the appliance lost its connection to the network. Are your technicians able to troubleshoot a network interface or create a net network cable if it is a damaged wired connection? If the appliance is wireless, are your technicians fluent enough to troubleshoot the wireless issue, look for interference, and reattach the appliance to the network without creating an IP conflict?


A large percent say no, they’re not prepared to troubleshoot these issues, much less do the initial setup. Does this mean the sale of connected devices, their necessary components, and the service of these devices will leave the appliance repair industry? I know this is a “Chicken Little” scenario, but it’s the same one the CEDIA market faced about a decade ago. Instead of letting all this technology business go to the IT and small office/home office companies, the appliance industry needs to take action swiftly. Specifically by developing means to train technicians in networks, ways for manufacturers to succeed in the current market, and business and thought processes that make the industry not only prepared, but eager to own their portion of the IoT market.

The time for preparedness is now. The technological changes unfolding around us everyday will positively or negatively impact your business—depending on your state of readiness. History has shown how bringing IoT into a market can drastically change any industry. How would you like it to change yours? To learn more, sign-up for Joe’s classes (Basic Networking for the Appliance Professional and Understanding Home Automation and Control) at the 2016 MSA Convention.


Director of IT, Marcone Supply; Board Member, CEDIA

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