Steve Macdonald is the business director for the freestanding division at Hoover Candy UK

Over the course of the last eighteen months, we’ve seen a huge shift in consumers adopting smart technology in many areas of the home, including a significant rise in the uptake of artificial intelligence (AI).

Mass-market products such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home have made this more accessible and has meant it is now possible for kitchen appliances to use the technology to deliver real, problem-solving solutions to long-standing user problems.

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This presents retailers with a wealth of opportunities with devices offering innovative and bespoke solutions, as well as traditional elements to capture the widest possible audience. In recent months, we’ve seen appliances which can be controlled through voice control skyrocket, though we still believe that a large proportion of consumers aren’t aware they exist.

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As an industry, this is an area we need to rectify, as with awareness comes an increased demand and growth in sales. By communicating the benefits – offering more control and a time-saving function, voice technology improves day-to-day tasks and can be controlled through the likes of Amazon Alexa.

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Beyond simple voice-assist technology, AI is prevalent in many homes now, whether that’s in the form of Alexa setting our alarms and reminders or controlling kitchen appliances – even asking them for advice on best washing programmes or how to be more economical. While many people have started to make the link between AI and appliances, we expect it to become much more of a trend in the latter stages of 2019.

As the leading company in this area, we’ve launched the AXI range of artificially intelligent appliances which includes washing machines to tumble dryers, dishwashers and even fridge-freezers. Consumers can now talk to their AXI washing machine to start a cycle, as well as the appliances giving helpful advice such as the best wash programmes and tips for stain removal. Connectivity to the internet also allows the washing machine to suggest optimum washing times based on the latest weather forecast to ensure that users have chance to line-dry their laundry.

As we move into AI territory, the focus will shift to having a main hub that controls all kitchen appliances and links them to one another, rather than just to the consumer. So, for example, in a connected kitchen, it could be an oven or a fridge that keeps track of all the other smart appliances in the kitchen. This could mean keeping track of ingredients and lists, expiry dates, what’s been cooked and which appliances need care or maintenance as well as updating shopping lists with regularly purchased items. The one appliance acting as a central hub should not only store all of this information, but also have the ability to share it with users.

This isn’t something that’s currently available on the market, but something we know some manufacturers, including Hoover, are working on this year. It’s very much what we’re moving towards.