Panasonic puts your laundry in the cloud

At Japan's biggest electronics exhibition, Panasonic shows its line of smart appliances

Panasonic is showing its latest home appliances at the Ceatec electronics exhibition, and everything - washing machines, refrigerators, rice cookers - connects to the internet.

The company has released a steady stream of "smart appliances" this year, all of which use smartphones to connect with online services. The full lineup is on display at Ceatec, Japan's largest electronics show, just outside of Tokyo.

(See the appliances in action on YouTube.)

Panasonic's first efforts to bring its profitable home appliance business into the modern age have had mixed results. The company's cooking products, which include a microwave oven that can also steam its food and an advanced rice cooker, interact with an online menu service, and their cooking settings can be set to prepare a dish selected by the user.

Data from its scales, pedometers and heart monitors can be uploaded and combined online to provide fitness graphs and a historical record of health indicators. Everything worked well together in demonstrations on the show floor, but the services are limited to Panasonic devices.

In other cases, the "smart" features feel a bit forced. A washing machine can be set for users' specific laundry detergents selected from an online database, and a refrigerator keeps track of how many times its door has been opened each day.

The products interact through the "Panasonic Smart App" which serves as a main control panel for the wired portion of appliances in its lineup. The app also provides ready access to instruction manuals and support help.

Most of its products use NFC (near field communication) technology to interact with phones, the same "touch card" tech used in many train passes and e-payment systems. The technology is common in Japanese phones, but is still catching on outside of the country.

Panasonic is also showing an air conditioner that can be fitted with a Wi-Fi attachment, then accessed remotely from a smartphone. Currently the only features available are checking the air conditioner's settings and turning it off, but this could be useful in the future, for uses like cooling your home on the way home from work during the summer.

Ceatec runs this week in Chiba, Japan.

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