Publication Library

Appliances Get Smart

25-Feb-2014

Smart Appliances are one of the emerging technology developments in the appliance fields. Limited research has been done to identify policy opportunities, potential challenges, and strategic possibilities for accelerated market introduction and adoption. 

Appliances Get Smart - report coverTo this end, George Wilkenfeld & Associates and CLASP conducted an analysis of smart appliances that reviews different types of appliance “smartness” and outlines current and future implications of smart appliances on appliance energy efficiency policy.  The analysis enables advanced planning for policy adoption for this new class of technologies.

“Smart” is one of the most over-used marketing terms of our times. Many claim that particular appliances are smart, but there is no single, accepted definition of a smart appliance. Some use the term ‘smart’ for any appliance with a wider range of settings or options than its competitors, or with touch controls and digital displays. Others use it for products that use information and communication technologies (ICT) or combine functions and technologies in new ways.

Another common use of the term “smart” is for appliances that can provide better services or operate more efficiently based on what they learn about how and when they are being used. For example, a water heater may be able to monitor the patterns of daily hot water demand and match reheating time with varying energy price periods, to lower operating costs. 

The lack of standardized definition has become a major market barrier for smart appliances. With various “smart” design and technology options available on market, it is difficult for consumers to choose the best appliance based on comparing models with different technologies. Without a high demand from consumers, appliance manufacturers are hesitant to build smart capabilities into their appliance, and thus the market for smart appliances will remain limited.

The ideal basis for developing a global market for smart appliances would be an accepted international test standard. Governments could then restrict the right to claim an appliance as “smart” only if it complies with the standards. This study reviews smart appliance standardization progress in Australia, China, Europe, Japan, New Zealand and the US, which have implemented or are in process of developing test standards for smart appliances. The progress in US, Australia/New Zealand, and Japan is more advanced than in other economies. Although these economies use different technical and policy approaches, they share a critical principle – definitions of “smartness” that are specific, testable, and legally enforceable.  

The analysis suggests that having a single common standard for smart appliances may not be possible, given the diversity of approaches and requirements globally. The best achievable objective will be a set of standards that are limited in number and linked by common technical requirements such as communication capabilities or smart meters.