Kids have sweet shops, pigs have mud, and Girl About Tech is never happier than when she’s roaming the halls of Europe’s biggest technology fair, IFA.
Yes, I’ve spent the last few days in Berlin scrutinising smart watches, fondling fridges, oging OLED TVs… and over the next few posts I’m going to pick out my favourites of the thousands of gadgets on display. Let’s start with five hot appliance trends I’ve spotted at the Messe.
Trend 1: App-controlled appliances
As seen at: Philips, LG
The lowdown: I’ll admit, I’ve spent most of the time bouncing around the show like Tigger on Haribo, but a few things have got me more excited than the Saeco GranBaristo Avanti espresso machine on the Philips stand. Its companion app can be used to control the machine, tailoring the strength, temperature and length of your drink using simple sliders. You can also access recipes for specialist coffee based drinks and get instructions on exactly how to make them. Philips also showed us the Homecooker NeXt, which has its own WiFi connection. You can download recipes directly to the cooker, add the necessary ingredients and it will automatically know how to cook them, when to stir them, and for how long.
Meanwhile, LG also demoed several app-controlled appliances, including a washing machine, smart oven and fridge freezer. Sadly none are confirmed for the UK yet though. Boo!
Trend 2: Tap-to-open appliances
As seen at: Miele, Liebherr
The lowdown: You probably know of the handleless kitchen doors that you press gently to open. Well now Liebherr has a wine cooler that can be accessed in exactly the same way. The UWT1862 is even clever enough to know if it’s been accidentally tapped ajar – say if the kids lean on it – and closes itself again automatically. It’s got two temperature zones and can hold up to 34 bottles.
Miele has a slightly different take with its Knock2open integrated dishwashers. Rap twice on the front and the door will glide to an ajar position, ready to be pulled fully open. Several new models will be available with this feature, and to make things even easier, most will have a series of four LED lights on the door edge so you can tell how far along in the cycle the machine is. They’ll also boast an A++ or A+++ rating and use as little as 6.5ltrs of water on an automatic wash.
Trend 3: The ‘Showcase’ American-style fridge freezer
As seen at: Samsung, LG
The lowdown: All the action is happening on the fridge side of these beauties, where you’ll find a door within a door. Open the outer showcase door and you’ll gain access to a series of shelves where you can store things you use a lot – they’re thinking condiments, cheese and drinks, I’m thinking wine and chocolate. Then open the second door and you’ll have those shelves to your right, and the body of the fridge to the left.
The ‘Showcase’ door of Samsung’s FS900, above, runs the full height of its fridge, and when you first open it you’ll see shelves to the left and a stainless steel panel to the right. I found it quite sticky and tricky to open, but did like that the lower drawers and shelves were allocated as Kids Zone.
The ‘Door-in-Door’ system in LG’s GR-D25 7SL quadrant-style design is slightly more successful, being much easier to open. It’s also slightly different in that you open the first door to reveal shelves to the left and to the right, so you can easily grab more things instantly.
Trend 4: Connected appliances
As seen at: Samsung, Liebherr
The lowdown: Picture the scene. You’re sat watching Strictly and a message pops up on your TV to tell you the washing machine has finished its cycle or someone has left the fridge door open. Amazing or annoying? Either way, that’s exactly what happens in Samsung’s prototype Connected Home.
Liebherr are also joining the dots with their connected fridge freezer, which can talk to a freezer and wine cooler installed in other rooms. So if the freezer is in the garage and loses power, or the wine cooler is in the dining room and someone accidentally leaves the door open, an alarm will sound on the fridge.
Trend 5: Super Eco
As seen at: Haier, Liebherr, Beko and more
The lowdown: It’s not easy being green – just ask Kermit the Frog – but a lot of manufacturers are trying to help, with Haier, Bosch and Beko all launching washing machines that are 50% more efficient that your average A+++ model. Which roughly means they’ll halve your electricity bill when compared to an A+++ machine. I also spotted A+++ -20% fridge freezers on the Liebherr and Haier stands.
Now this is great news, but it does beg the question, when are the EU going to come up with a ratings system that people can actually understand without a masters degree in maths? At the moment it looks like I’m accidentally slumping on the keyboard whenever I mention appliance specs. Sort it out!
And one trend we’re not so keen on: Smart fridge freezers
As seen at: Samsung, LG, Beko and more
The lowdown: Can we really be bothered to programme in every item we place in our fridges? And surely we can tell the milk’s off just by smelling it? Stop it already.