The ever-changing world of innovations

The ever-changing world of innovations

As technology continues to revolutionize today’s daily lives, it will be interesting to see how consumer electronics and appliances manufacturers will make far-reaching changes in new and innovative ways.

The influence of consumer electronics and home appliances on the daily lives of people around the world continues to expand. From smartphones to televisions to refrigerators, consumer devices keep defying traditional categorization as they become smarter and greener.

Connected products are developing at a rapid pace across a number of geographic regions and countries, greatly impacting the market for new consumer applications and services. The consumer electronics industry has migrated from producing and distributing hardware to distributing OTT content, providing intelligent home function and control services, programming and licensing software, and leveraging advertising models to connect consumers with desired products and services.

Recent innovations in the connected CE and platform space include advancements in augmented reality, an evolving digital subscription-based market, and the expansion of voice assistant technology. An increasing number of products are gaining voice control functionality as well as integration with voice assistants.

The next evolutionary phase of television

The television industry has seen exponential changes over the past 10 years and the disruption is likely to continue over the next 10 years. The new smart television sets need to be at the centers of homes, where consumers control all their appliances, security systems, as well as buying whatever the household needs. The next generation of smart television sets will become medical devices, allowing them to check bodily functions, exercise, communicate with doctors, and serve as panic buttons.

The television set is now different: it not only added color, stereo, high (and very high) definition, it also made watching television only part of its job description. The television set has been disrupted and replaced by a completely new device.

A few major developments have shaped up in the TV world. There are more large-sized sets in stores, more companies offering 8K TVs – not that consumers are asking for them. How big is big? Last year 65-inch TVs become a major screen size, and in 2020 the size rose to 75- to 85-inch models in the companies’ offering. 2020 began with the buzz about improvements to existing TV technologies, including HDR, local dimming, and other factors that can make the picture more vibrant and lifelike. That will result in more data collection by huge tech companies and their myriad partners. Today manufacturers are not willing to invest in content. There are 4K sets with little to watch and 8K with nothing to watch. This is what killed 3D. It is unclear who will drive the next cycle of innovation.

TV screens get bigger. TVs with 65-inch screens are now commonplace. These will be continued growth in larger screen sizes. It has lot to do with manufacturing plants, especially new Gen 10.5 LCD fabs.

OLED TVs. Finally, some competition! More players are now foraying into OLED technology. After several years of OLED sets coming exclusively from LG or Sony, the introduction of any competition from other brands is refreshing. AMOLED technology has developed rapidly in the last few years. Despite carrying a much higher average selling price (ASP) than LCD TVs, AMOLED TVs are extremely appealing to consumers because of their slim form factor, light weight, and wide color gamut

HDR gets better and brighter. High dynamic range (HDR) was a hot TV topic in 2019, and it was again in the beginning of 2020. While many manufacturers tout HDR capability in their 4K TVs, there is no way to tell how well a set will handle HDR just by looking at it in the store. Many sets do not have the brightness, black levels, or video processing ability to really show off HDR programs to their full effect. Several manufacturers are likely to promote TVs with peak brightness levels significantly higher than the 1000 nits typically required for top HDR performance.

4K is beginning to get big. Current 4K sets are getting only incremental updates, like improved smart TV software and a couple of new form factors. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu; transactional video on demand (TVoD) merchants like Apple; and video game console manufacturers Sony and Microsoft all offer 4K content. The holdout is traditional pay-TV. If pay-TV providers are serious about keeping their remaining customers, matching the video output from their online rivals will be essential. While 4K content is available via streaming services and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, broadcasters have not moved beyond old-fashioned, 1080p high-definition video. They are still struggling with the bandwidth requirements.

More 8K TVs. While 8K TVs made their debut at CES 2019, 2020 shaped up to be the coming-out party for these new sets. Only a few manufacturers offered 8K sets in 2019, and only one or two models. However, there is not any native 8K content to watch on one of these sets, at least for a while. A handful of movies have been shot in 8K, and some high-profile events, such as the coming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, will be shot in 8K (which has now postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic) – but the 8K material would not be getting to consumers’ television. Even 4K is a problem for broadcasters.

LCD sets keep improving. OLED TVs may have topped experts’ ratings for the past few years, but LCD sets make up the bulk of TVs in homes. And this technology is getting better every year. Some of the biggest gains have come in LCD TV backlight technology. In an LCD set, the backlights are always on, and the pixels in front of them open and close to let through the right amount of light for each scene. In dark scenes, some light always manages to leak through. This can make black tones look gray or create halos around light objects that appear against a dark background.

MicroLED is incredible but still future-tech. One LED technology with the potential to truly match OLED performance lies a bit further into the future. It is MicroLED. With MicroLED sets, there is no longer a need for a separate backlight; every pixel is made up of tiny LED sub-pixels that give off their own light. The technology has not been perfected yet. Many analysts say that the MicroLED technology is not ready as a consumer product.

Smart TVs that listen. Smart TVs and virtual reality are changing the way consumers interact with content. These sets also have the ability to listen to everything around them. The surging popularity of smart speaker technology has encouraged TV manufacturers to build the same capabilities into smart TVs. Since many smart TVs already offer voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and others built in, it is a logical step in making voice interaction more accessible. But it does raise some questions about privacy and security. TV makers have a checkered history when it comes to tracking user data, keeping close tabs on viewing choices, app interaction, and more. There is no reason to think that manufacturers will suddenly turn away from this valuable trove of data when microphones that listen to the room are suddenly standard in many TVs. That said, every TV manufacturer has taken pains to make sure that these microphones can be disabled, and will require users to opt into their use, whether as part of the setup process for a new TV, or as a separate function to enable. Television used to be a one-way device. Today’s smart sets will constantly be evolving into two-way devices that add digital assistants (Alexa, Google Home, and Siri) as well as medical devices, encyclopedias of non-fictional content, and much more. These new sets will need to allow seamless switching from television sets to computers, phones, and tablets.

AC innovations in line with energy efficiency

If it seems like air conditioning technology is changing and evolving every year, that is because it is. The coming years are not going to be any different.  Innovation in the air conditioners sector has the chance to be at the vanguard of change. With growth in the green sector, the market will have a big part to play in the rise of sustainable energy.

Each generation attributes value in products and services in different ways. Millennials are placing more value on sustainable solutions that are not only more efficient but also decrease their impact on the environment. They also show that they are willing to pay more for sustainable solutions.

One of the biggest technological changes in the home has been the move toward smart integration. Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are changing the way people think about technology. The focus of manufacturers has been on minimalism as well. Consumers are looking for ways to reduce the distractions they have at home and one of the common problems is a noisy system. Over the past few years, some of the quietest portable AC options have reached the open market.

The sustainability challenges of increased use of air conditioning extend beyond energy. The chemical refrigerants that are a core component of most air conditioners sold today are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs were adopted in recent decades to replace ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). However, the ideal is alternatives that are benign to both the ozone layer and the global climate. There has been progress on developing next-generation refrigerants and the equipment calibrated to use them efficiently and safely. The majority of air conditioning units on the market for the past decade have already made the switch to safer alternatives. Emerging nations are slowly phasing out fluorocarbon refrigerants and are working on phasing out HCFCs.

AC manufacturers have been increasingly incorporating smart technologies into their products. Smart controls will be increasingly utilized to support residential and commercial building automation. Connected equipment, sensors, and controls will use different types of data, such as humidity, temperature, occupancy, time of day, and carbon dioxide levels to automatically establish the need to control the air conditioning systems. Smart technology will also result in advances like the ability of AC technology to recognize the need for maintenance and alert the homeowner or submit an order for professional maintenance automatically.

It is clear that smart and environment-friendly technological advancements play a huge part in shaping the air conditioners industry in the current scenario. Innovations in air conditioners have the potential to make a huge global impact on sustainable and affordable technology. The market is constantly growing and has a lot of potential in both new and mature markets, and the new trends arising are undoubtedly playing a key role in shaping the industry today.

These are a few of the major emerging air conditioning technology trends that are reaching the market this year. As these advances become more readily available, expect to see more homeowners looking to take advantage of them. It will be exciting to see how this emerging technology impacts the AC industry as a whole. When these systems are integrated with smart technology throughout the home, the possibilities are endless.

Redefining home appliances

Over the past few years, the home appliances market has experienced steady growth and the trend is expected to continue over the next decade. The transformation from traditional appliances to smart home appliances is considered a revolutionary trend for the home appliances industry; and that is why most home appliances companies are rushing to develop and capture the market share.

Growth in urbanization has led to more consumers moving into smaller spaces, which means less and less counter space is becoming available for the latest appliances. As a result, manufacturers are continuing to combine multi-functionality into singular appliances, helping consumers not only save space, but cost as well. Why buy a microwave, an oven, and an air fryer, when there is a 4-in-1 deal?

In 2020, the home appliances market is not about allowing people to do totally new things, but rather redefining how people do their everyday activities. In order for technology to truly become ambient, which is a term various companies have been tossing around lately, more and more appliances need smart built-in. Leading manufacturers are continuing their tradition of cramming AI into every possible appliance like refrigerators, washing machines, and water heaters.

Refrigerators. The refrigerators built in the past and those built today have much difference in terms of the energy they utilize. Thus, there is a high demand for replacement of old refrigerators and freezers with the latest technology product. This has resulted in the obsolescence of old-fashioned or conventional freezers and refrigerators. Manufacturers of refrigerators and freezers today, are striving to meet the standards and are, thus, manufacturing efficient products. They are also offering customers, user-friendly features like water tap on the door, through-the-door-ice, and similar other technological advancements. The pairing of refrigerators with smartphones is another trend driving the growth of this household refrigerators and freezers market. Compressor-less refrigerator and freezers is one of the notable technological innovations, which will become a significant growth factor in the market. Manufacturers are concentrating on improving the structure of the equipment from the inside, and R&D is being carried out to bring about these improvements and innovations.

Washing machines. It is no surprise that washing machines have captured the market in a big way. Continued advancements in technology are being made to optimize operations of washing machines, while also increasing efficiency in all respects, which has increased market attractiveness. Features such as auto optimal wash technology, automatic detergent dispenser, power wash system, cap dosing system, and steam care functions introduced by key manufacturers have distinguished their products from competitors’ products. One of the major trends seen in the washing machines market in recent times is the use of technology that reduces the use of water for washing. Portable washing machines have also recently emerged as an ideal solution for laundry washing. Companies are also focusing on launching other innovative products like pocket washing machines to beat the intense competition. To go a step further, the introduction of such smart, connected machines is attracting more consumers and has managed to influence a section of the customer-base to replace their old machines with their smart connected counterparts. There has been a global conscience preferring the use of smart and energy-conserving washing machines. The increase in the demand for energy-efficient and fully automatic appliances is expected to boost the industry over the coming years. A steady growth in demand for commercial washing machines has enabled manufacturers to focus on developing heat-pump-powered dryers rather than conventional electricity and gas dryers. It is estimated that heat-pump dryers are 30 percent more energy efficient than traditional dryers, and thus are gaining a sizeable audience. More vendors are expected to adopt this technology in their product portfolio with the advent of unique and smart connected devices. Owing to the high price of these pumps, consumers are reluctant to adopt washing machines integrated with these dryers. However, the prices of these devices are expected to decline in coming years with more manufacturers implementing heat-pump dryers in the machines.

Water heaters. Manufacturers are increasingly producing energy-efficient products to reduce carbon footprint and enable energy savings for the consumers. The rise of energy-efficient appliances can be attributed to the stringent government regulations on electric home appliances and advances in technology.

Tankless water heaters have always left traditional tank heaters in the dust when it comes to energy efficiency. Without the need to maintain 50-plus gallons of water at a constant, elevated temperature, tankless heaters use less power, whether driven by gas or electricity. That energy savings accumulates over time and can make up for the higher cost of installation. However, recent developments in heating technology narrow the energy-use difference between tank and tankless heaters considerably. Recirculation is the hottest new technology in tankless heaters. Several manufacturers have introduced heat pump water heaters (HPWH). HPWHs have been around for a while, with the vast majority of consumers showing little interest. Until recently, it has been easy to see why – HPWHs are significantly more expensive than conventional gas or electric water heaters, and the potential cost savings can be hard to communicate. But all of that is starting to change, and change quickly. As more and more homeowners and building owners seek ways to improve efficiency and decrease their energy costs over the long term, heat pump water heaters are gaining traction and picking up momentum. Surging demand for sustainable technologies for hot water provision in industrial and commercial establishments will propel the evacuated tube collector solar water heater market. Less space requirements, low O&M cost and high conversion efficiency are some of indispensable parameters which will boost the product demand. Advancements in microprocessors have also allowed improvements in water heater digital technology, both for tank and tankless heaters. Some models include multiple digital function modes, such as efficiency or vacation. These days, one can even connect to their water heater through an app on phone to monitor and control temperature and usage, turning the water heater into a smart appliance.

Smart homes, domestic face of IoT

The smart homes market has undergone significant change in recent years, with smart home technology evolving from niche technologies to mass-market products and services, and from low data rate and low frequency to high data rate and high frequency. The growth of wired and wireless communication technology is creating a potential for new smart home applications and driving the market demand for smart home systems/devices. As the technology underpinning this revolution in how consumers live continues to get faster and more powerful, home automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to offer domestic help in new and innovative ways.

One of the headaches of putting together a smart home is undoubtedly the competing range of platforms and standards. Increasingly, manufacturers of smart home devices are ensuring their products and services work on platforms provided by Amazon, Google, Samsung, and Apple to capture the broadest customer base. And consumers themselves face the danger of finding themselves tied in to a particular network provider. Relying on a mish-mash of different solutions can also cause security vulnerabilities – so it is encouraging to see plans from Apple, Google, and Amazon to team up to create a set of standards designed to make smart homes simpler and, importantly, more secure. Moves like this one designed to make it easier to develop and sell solutions that will work with the many available smart home systems are expected to become increasingly common in the next decade.

The term smart gets misused a fair amount when it comes to home technology. Home appliances do not automatically become smart just because they are plugged into the internet. That is set to change over the next decade, as more and more devices begin to make use of machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, and other technologies that actually are capable of thinking, making decisions, and learning.

AI-driven technology will be seen more like facial recognition becoming a feature of home security systems. There will be more refrigerators that use computer vision to see what is inside, and machine learning algorithms to predict what one needs to order in – and then making the order themselves.

Moving forward

Consumers are becoming increasingly digital and concerned about sustainability and how governments, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers can be more environment-friendly in the durables space. Innovation, performance, and premiumization will continue to be the key consumer trends boosting demand. With convenience, health and well-being winning consumer attention and spend, the strong demand for consumer electronics and appliances will continue, driven by both emerging and developed markets. Given the rapid pace of technological change, the landscape will continue to evolve and look completely different a decade from now.

AI is now everywhere. While it has become somewhat of a buzzword, the technology is vastly improving how services operate on phones, TVs, laptops, and much more. Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless avoiding the risks is learned. With increased awareness about the transformative intensity of AI, the adoption is presently being seen across numerous enterprises. This is expected to be the next most prominent change in the world.

As technology continues to revolutionize today’s daily lives, it will be interesting to see how consumer electronics and appliances manufacturers will make far-reaching changes in new and innovative ways.

Industry Speak

Upgrading homes with connected air conditioners

Gaurav Sah
Business Head, Air Conditioners Group,
Panasonic India

With technology becoming an integral part whilst designing a dream house, consumers are now looking toward IoT and AI-enabled solutions to enhance quality of life through connected ecosystems. As per Panasonic’s research over 75 percent of consumers are looking for specific requirements related to ease of use, safety, monitoring misuse, service reminders, and personalize usage pattern.

Imagine that it is a hot day, a couple of degrees over 40 degrees, you are 10 minute away from your home and you get a prompt on your smartphone, do you wish to turn on your AC? And what if you could control the AC remotely from anywhere in the world from your smartphone? This and many more such experiences is no more a dream but a reality.

With a vision to provide convenience, comfort, and connectivity, Panasonic has forayed into the Connected Living Solutions space with the launch of its IoT and AI-enabled platform – Miraie; conceptualized and developed at Panasonic’s India Innovation Center based out of Bangalore. With the literal meaning of Miraie being future home in Japanese, the platform presently hosts India’s largest range of connected ACs, smart doorbells, and smart plugs and switches.

Panasonic’s new range of connected ACs provide convenience with the AI-enabled Miraie App; comfort with better cooling via our unique JetStream and aero-wings technology, and health with its Nanoe-G technology that removes bacteria and PM 2.5. With intelligent and unique features, such as the customized sleep mode, the AC enables enhanced flexibility. Users can also create different temperature profiles. Featuring an intuitive auto-diagnosis feature, the new connected range is equipped to detect issues in advance and alert users. It also leverages Google’s Voice Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa technology. All these features combine to offer a much-needed requirement of saving up on the electricity bills.

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