Siemens previews House of Innovations connected household at IFA 2012


August 29, 2012

Siemens is displaying some of the home technologies it's developing, in its House of Innovations exhibit at IFA 2012

Siemens is displaying some of the home technologies it's developing, in its House of Innovations exhibit at IFA 2012

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What would a trade show be without a “The (BLANK) of Tomorrow” display? They’re always a good way of showing off what a company is working on, in a simulated real-world setting. One such exhibit at IFA 2012 will be Siemens’ House of Innovations. The 70 square-meter (753.5 sq-ft) display illustrates how technologies such as augmented reality and internet connectivity may soon start transforming our households.

What's in the fridge?

According to Siemens, one thing that we may be able to do before too long is check the contents of our refrigerator remotely, via a smartphone or tablet app. This would work with a camera in the fridge, which would display the fridge’s contents on the user’s mobile device. The user could then touch a series of individual food items on the screen, as a way of asking “What could I cook with these?”. The app would respond by supplying appropriate recipes.

When the user selected one of those recipes, a shopping list of ingredients would then appear – presumably the person wouldn’t already have everything required. They could then purchase the necessary items while they were still out and about, instead of having to go out again after returning home.

As is the case with some already-available systems, the apps could also be used to remotely start and stop appliances in the kitchen and elsewhere, and to monitor their status.

Hands-on cooking

Once the hypothetical user got home and was ready to start cooking, the recipe instructions would be projected onto the food preparation surface as a multi-touch display. When the user got to the point where they were instructed to “Put the meat in the oven” (the example provided), their touching of that command on the projection would cause the oven to come on at the desired temperature.

Using such a recipe display would allow users to keep their fingers goopy with ingredients, as they wouldn’t have to worry about messing up their smartphone or tablet (or, God forbid, their cookbook).

Energy management

As we turn more and more toward alternative energy sources, Siemens anticipates that we’ll need a way of knowing when to use them. To that end, one of the features of the House of Innovations is a system that tracks the position of the sun. An interface then lets the user know at what times of the day the solar gain will be the highest – the more sunlight available, the better for running major appliances.

Let me show you ...

Should one of those appliances break down or simply require maintenance, the user could once again whip out their mobile device. Using an augmented reality app, they would then point the device’s camera at the appliance in question. Overlaid on top of the live image of the appliance would be three-dimensional graphics illustrating how to fix or service it.

The app could also be used to allow off-site technicians to electronically access users’ appliances (with their permission), or to guide them through procedures via live chat.

When we can expect it

So, will this be like a lot of these kind of displays, where the things on show are pie-in-the-sky concepts that will never see the light of day? According to Siemens, the answer is no. “In about two years, we will be able to implement aspects of this scenario by bringing the first correspondingly equipped appliances to the market,” said Sonja Ehmer, the company’s Head of Marketing. “Reactions to the House of Innovations at the IFA will also bring us a step closer to our goals.”

Source: Siemens

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

What's in the fridge? Wasn't RFID touted as the next best thing for this same purpose just a few years ago? Also, I don't think I've ever seen a refrigerator as sparseley stocked as that in the picture. What about the real world where stuff is always hidden in the deep recesses?

Hands-on cooking This is an all around great idea with one exception. The system should turn the oven on when a particular recipe is chosen. If it waits until the step to put the meat in the oven, you then have to wait for the oven to heat up. Doing away with the clutter of cookbooks is fantastic though.

Energy management This system could be tweaked a little and put to use even with the current power grid. Could be tied to smart film windows or electric window blinds to limit sunlight coming into a given space. No need to wait until alternative energy is predominant.

Let me show you ... Don't see this one as practical. Too many assumptions are being made as to the homeowner fixing their own appliances. At best this system would allow for more specific information to be passed on to the service tech prior to being on site. Would be similar in function to the trouble codes produced by a vehicles computer. The codes provide an idea of the problem, not always the exact problem.


"An interface then lets the user know at what times of the day the solar gain will be the highest – the more sunlight available, the better for running major appliances." The problem here is many governments have offered generous prices for solar electricity to be exported to the grid. While it has been useful to spur growth of solar energy installations, unfortunately it encourages people to avoid consuming the electricity they generate. The appliances that demand lots of energy are switched off during the day because drawing power out of the grid is cheaper than what they can get for exporting it. Some governments are starting to realise this has an adverse impact and are adjusting feed in tariffs closer to parity with the cost of using power from the grid.


Regarding the Fridge

The consumer want a list of what to buy in the shop and because of all the food that is thrown away a warning about what is passing best before date as well as left overs. All that is possible to achieve with cameras and hidden objects is no problem. This was shown by Electrolux years ago.

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