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Your fridge just texted: Japan electronics firms pin hopes on 'smart' appliances

Published on Dec 4, 2013 6:23 AM
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A staff member of Sharp Corp shows a tablet, which has an application to control and to communicate with home electrical appliances via its home energy management system at Ceatec (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) Japan 2013 in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Oct 1, 2013. Companies from Panasonic Corp to Toshiba Corp are diverting engineers and money away from their TV operations and into developing 'smart appliances' after losing out in the living room to cheaper Asian rivals. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - For Japan's electronics firms, the kitchen is the final frontier.

Companies from Panasonic Corp to Toshiba Corp are diverting engineers and money away from their TV operations and into developing 'smart appliances' after losing out in the living room to cheaper Asian rivals.

A fridge that texts pictures to show what's for dinner, a voice-controlled washing machine - appliances like these are being designed to talk to each other via the cloud to cut energy bills.

For now, they're expensive, deterring buyers: a Japan-only Toshiba smart fridge with camera runs to about US$2,800 (S$3510) versus less than US$800 for a basic model. Yet as more products come on the market and competition cuts prices, global smart appliance sales will rocket to US$35 billion by 2020 from just over US$600 million last year, according to technology intelligence firm Pike Research.

 
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