Smart homes emerge as key battleground

The “smart home” is emerging as a major technology battleground with industry giants presenting new visions of houses filled with appliances controlled with smartphones and smartwatches.

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Korean archrivals LG and Samsung have both unveiled their own takes on the technology at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

The technology is devoted to dissolving the gap between humans and everyday technology, but has the added bonus of nudging consumers into a single brand’s ecosystem.

LG unveiled a prototype of its “HomeChat” technology on Tuesday, pointing to a future where users control their appliances via simple conversational text messages.

If you’re at the shops, for example, and can’t remember how many beers you have in the fridge, you can send it a short message, to which it will reply promptly and with a friendly thank you.

The texting is controlled via a specialised app developed in partnership with Vine to work with both Android and Apple phones.

LG says a range of new appliances made in 2014 will come with the technology, including fridges, washing machines, robot vacuum cleaners, and air conditioners.

One catch is that users must enter information about what they’re putting in the fridge in order for the fridge to keep up to date, but demonstrations have showed the prototypes work smoothly and quickly.

Samsung, meanwhile, unveiled its own vision of the “Smart Home”, which will enable users to control their appliances by speaking into Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

If you’re heading out for the evening, you can simply say “going out” to the watch and it will tell the lights, the TV and other devices to turn off.

Tell it you’re “coming home” and it will turn the house back on.

Samsung said versions of its Smart Home app will work on a range of additional control devices, including Samsung phones and TVs.

The company said it would start to roll out the functionality this year.

Other companies, such as Belkin and Qualcomm, have also unveiled innovations within home automation at the convention.

Samsung and LG, however, are already among the world’s biggest home appliance makers, meaning they are well-positioned to drive the shift to “smart homes”.

*Paddy Wood travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of LG.

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