Skip to main content

Even your toaster is about to be smarter than you

Smarter than you?

Image Credit:

Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.

As the cloud and A.I. join hands in eternal matrimony, expect a new sentient being to transform our lives forever. Let’s call it, for now, Cloud-A.I.. Cloud-A.I. will be connected to our devices and appliances, and it will be tethered to us like a new best friend. We will select which portion of our identity to share with Cloud-A.I., or to whom or with what appliance, similar to the way it is now common for websites to give new users the option to sign in with their Google or Facebook account.

Doesn’t this all sound eerily familiar?

It is. I remember seeing Microsoft’s glitzy Smart Home display at a major trade show back in 2005. Ten years later and I’m still waiting for my Smart Fridge to add something to my personal shopping list (or drone it to my doorstep, ahem?).

The truth is, we’re slogging through the age of Internet of Things (IoT), where appliance manufacturers like Black and Decker and Sunbeam are dragging their feet to embed IP into their lower-end appliances. (They better move fast before their products get seen as dumb.)


Transform 2023

Join us in San Francisco on July 11-12, where top executives will share how they have integrated and optimized AI investments for success and avoided common pitfalls.


Register Now

Today, I will argue that your toaster is one of our dumbest appliances, but even that will be connected to Cloud-A.I. sooner than we think. Today, you can buy a “dumb” toaster for about twenty bucks. Once connected to Cloud-A.I., what can your toaster do for you, and how much will we be willing to pay for the beyond-gee-whiz features?

It’s anybody’s guess, but if it knows you’re just standing around waiting for your toast to pop up, it might make a suggestion of a better use of your next sixty seconds. Or, because your toaster knows you’re the only one in the family that makes toast, if its toaster-cam (securely connected to a preferred Cloud-A.I. such as Alexa or Cortana) doesn’t recognize you, your security system will automatically alert you all to leave through the back door. The scenarios are endless, and only Cloud-A.I. will be able to synthesize the data on the back end and form accurate recommendations and predictions in real time, just for you.

Alas, if I look around my own home today, 99 percent of my stuff is still not IP-enabled, and certainly not my toaster. My appliances are dumb and, relatively speaking, getting dumber as other appliances smarten up. In fact, the only items that are skimming the elusive surface of Cloud-A.I. are my Apple TV, my Arlo security cam, my stereo (thanks to Apple AirPlay), and still none of them are leveraging Cloud-A.I. except to recommend a song or a movie.

In a few years, up to 50 billion IP-enabled “things” will be connected to Cloud-A.I. McKinsey Global Institute expects a global impact of $6.2 trillion by 2025. Once again, we are catching up to our own imaginations.

The high IQ fridge shows the toaster how it’s done

I’ll promise you this: Long before the High IQ toaster, the High IQ Fridge is coming. For real this time — it’s going to be much smarter than the tech industry ever suggested. Not only will your High IQ Fridge be connected to the internet so you can order a new water filter (whoopee!), but it will be connected to Cloud-A.I. to help you rearrange the contents to allow for the cake it knows is on the way for your daughter’s birthday party tomorrow.

When you plug your High IQ fridge in, the first thing it will ask you to do is to register, but that registration is going to have a whole new meaning than it has today. This isn’t just for your warranty and for you to get you on their mailing list. Once you register, the High IQ Fridge will know everything about you.

And your High IQ fridge will be learning not just from your actions and preferences, but from other fridges, too, all connected to and taught by Cloud-A.I. If Whirlpool, say, plays nice with Whole Foods, Wells Fargo, and maybe Epicurious, it’s going to be able to compile your shopping list for you with new recipes that it knows you’ll love.

We are at the forefront of Cloud-A.I.

With GE’s recent launch of Geneva, which was developed closely with Amazon, we now have the first Alexa skill by a major manufacturer that enables you to control many GE appliances by voice.

Cloud-A.I., once it’s truly connected to our homes, will capture our imaginations and ultimately transform our lives for the better.

First, your High IQ Fridge will notice that you have just enough eggs to make your daughter pancakes for her birthday, remind you not to get broccoli for dinner even though it’s on sale (since your son hates veggies), and suggest that you cut down on carbs. Let’s call that Cloud-A.I.-to-You value. But it will also share information the other way, back to Google, Facebook, and/or Amazon, not only about general usage, but about energy usage, which will then help Cloud-A.I. help Whirlpool design the next version of its fridge. We’ll call that Customer-to-Cloud-A.I. value.

Whether you like it or not, this is how the system works already when you choose to log into a new website using Facebook or Google from your mobile device. The difference is, it’s going to do this for not just our browsing or app activity, but for all of our activity in our home.

Who’s going to make this happen and how it’s coming together is anybody’s guess, but it’s going to be messy at first, just like self-driving cars are today. The mega innovation companies are making incredible strides toward Cloud-A.I. basecamp  —  we are in a place where its peak is now in perfect view for the very first time.

It’s a combination of hardware, software, and a focus on the customer that’s going to make the difference in who wins and who loses the Cloud-A.I. arms race. (Amazon, by the way, seems as though it may now be the best positioned player to get in cozy with the home appliance industry, which is projected to be a $600 billion industry by 2020. It’s clearly got the lead with Alexa, which has well over 1,000 skills and growing, and an estimated 3 million units sold. Talk about a head start.

Today, Big Customer Data has been useful only on very specific levels of online retail recommendations, creating better news feeds or improving search.

Folks like Bosch, Siemens, LG Electronics, and Electrolux are working on their own version of “smart,” but what they’re missing is the larger picture of A.I. that the mega innovation companies will have. They’re going to be putting together deals with Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook so that they can provide more value to their customers. Global appliance brands need to stop trying to create new technologies in a silo and start relying on Cloud-A.I. partnerships.

Like I said, don’t put it past customer-savvy Amazon to launch the Alexa-enabled kitchen. Cloud-A.I. is the biggest game changer in tech innovation since the cloud itself was conceived in the ’90s. The hardware is ready. The software is tight and scalable. Big data is available. The customer intelligence is unbelievably robust.

We’re in a perfect storm.

Let’s get back to reality. Hold on while I order a pizza from the Pizza Hut Facebook Messenger bot, even though it still doesn’t know I prefer to make my pizza from scratch right in my cast iron skillet.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.