It seems like we’ve been waiting for years for RFID-enabled appliances to become mainstream. RFID powered refrigerators, for example, could send a message to consumers and restaurant owners when food is about to expire, or automatically send a notice to your online grocery order that your milk needs to be replenished.
Although that kind of use case is still not ready for prime time, smart appliances — many of them powered by RFID — are making gains, although progress has been slower than expected, with many projects still in the pilot stage.
However, a new report from ABI Research says that smart appliance shipments will exceed 24 million units by 2017. Manufacturers like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics already have several lines of smart appliances on the market.
At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NXP demonstrated some of the advantages of a smart washing machine equipped with RFID. NXP loaded an RFID interface onto the appliance’s system management board for the purpose of clothes detection and increased maintenance.
A video produced by NXP explains that if clothing items were tagged with RFID in the product care labels, the washing machine could detect which products were placed in the unit and suggest the proper washing cycle based on the garment’s care instructions. In addition, RFID sensors could send users an alert when a wash was complete and ready to move to the dryer. That would eliminate wet clothing sitting in the unit for too long, forcing it to be washed a second time, which is a waste of electricity and water.
Potential maintenance uses for RFID could include warranty management, tracking service performed on the unit, and sending messages to the manufacturer and appliance service providers when specific parts are about to fail. Service companies would love to get their hands on that data from appliance manufacturers. However, manufacturers have not yet determined the best way to be share revenues that would result from the increased maintenance work produced from the RFID alerts.
The ABI report notes that RFID-enabled appliances will grow in tune with smart meters and home energy management systems. However, it will most likely take a couple of years for premium price tags to erode and for dynamic pricing structures to become more widely implemented in order to increase consumer demand.