Connected living is no longer just a concept
GLOSS THE RECORD - Marbbie C. Tagabucba (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2017 - 12:00am

I saw the future. Two years ago, in fact, inside Samsung’s headquarters in Suwon, South Korea. There, the air temperature is always just right, every nook and cranny is squeaky clean, and the laundry is already washed, dried and ready for folding with no nannies or maids, humans or robotics in sight. With GPS sensors connected to your car or your phone, appliances like a coffeemaker (yet to be released, unfortunately) will begin brewing a cup for you so it will be hot and ready the moment you walk in the door.

One thing the retro imaginings of the space age — today and in our near future — didn’t see coming is that we won’t really need an extra mechanical pair of hands because of what has happened to our phones. They did predict phones making video phone calls, but communication doesn’t end with one phone to another or to a server far away; our phones can now communicate our preferences to every other device, a seamless intuitive experience from device to device that gets the job done as though we’d done it ourselves, only much faster. Collectively, the electronics giant calls it Smart Home: the fruition of the company’s bigger vision.

Fast-forward to last week in Marina Bay Sands, in Singapore’s towering landmark of modernity overlooking the shop houses and restored colonial-era buildings of the old world just across the river and the skyscrapers around it. Samsung Electronics Southeast Asia and Oceania president and CEO Yong Sung Jeon introduced this year’s home appliances lineup: “These products are developed based on deep consumer understanding, cutting-edge technology and with strong design elements. We are confident that these products will resonate with and enrich consumers’ lives in the region.”

A Flexible Home

Last year, Samsung released two digital appliances that were both easy hits: floor-standing Wind-Free air conditioners and the FlexWash washer and dryer.

With this year’s upgrades, owning a Samsung phone is just the start. Corporate marketing head in Indonesia Jo Semidang suggests that, “through an application, you can remotely control the Wind-Free air conditioner from your phone.”

It now comes in a triangular wall-mounted version that can cool down a room in an instant and then keep it pleasantly chilled without having to turn off and on again, doing away with any cold draft through its 21,000 micro air holes. I suggest switching it to Fast Cooling mode when you’re 10 minutes away. He agrees: “This consumes 72 percent less energy.”

Samsung’s new Powerbot vacuum cleaner VR7000 comes sweeping through up ahead, 28 percent slimmer than its predecessor, first introduced in 2014. When connected to Wi-Fi, you can control it with your phone, even maneuver it like a toy car, except it can clean in tighter areas with a more powerful suction, wider brush cyclone force, and an auto shutter to clean wall edges. Even a toy car won’t prevent the vacuum cleaner from stopping or getting stuck by obstacles — the Powerbot adapts to different surfaces like floors to carpets. It cleans itself, too: hair and all.

A favorite of mine is the FlexWash, two washers and a dryer in one. It saves space and energy by converting the washer into a dryer so you don’t have to move clothes — as much as 21 kilograms, all at the same time.

“Imagine returning from family vacation exhausted but everyone’s clothes need washing!” says Samsung Malaysia director of corporate marketing Elaine Soh. 

It also has two features you never knew you needed: a small compartment (the AddWash door) in the front, which you can open for forgotten items, and a smaller loader on the top meant for delicate items. You can fit up to 3.5 kilograms. Hot air is blown to remove stains, smells and bacteria. “No need for wash. It’s like dry cleaning,” she explains. As with the first two appliances, you can monitor, control and stop the cycle from your smartphone.

Smarter Screens

“We are number one in TV market share for 11 years,” Yong announced, as 43.2 percent of the consumer demand in Southeast Asia is for Samsung TVs. Advancement in Quantum dot technology is thanks to a new metal added to nano-sized semiconductor quantum dots in their QLED TVs — the Q7, Q8, and Q9 available this quarter. This means you get a perfect picture whether the TV is against a window during the day in a typical living room arrangement, or in a dark entertainment room. “It is the deeper blacks that make it sharper,” Yong points out.

To maximize your QLED, Samsung has partnered with Netflix and Amazon for original content and more 4k and HDR content.

Picture quality isn’t all there is to TV viewing. The clean design aesthetic, curved monitors starting at 31.5” and 360-degree design allow the QLED to complement its surroundings. You need not be a minimalist neat freak or Kondo disciple to appreciate an entertainment area with less wires and remotes. New accessories include a gapless wall mount and sleek stands, all without unsightly cords, only one retractable 16-foot cable behind it as the sole direct connection; devices like DVD players and gaming consoles can plug right into it. The TVs come with a unified Smart Remote (which can also follow voice control) or you can download the Smart View app on your phone, available both on Android and iOS, browse programs from there even if you’re not home yet; or you can connect your phone to the TV via Wi-Fi to project your content onto the big screen.

The FamilyHub refrigerator gets its concept from the kitchen, specifically the refrigerator being the true center of the home where every family member interacts. With its interior cameras allowing you to keep track of its contents and interactive screen that allows you to do anything, from leaving e-notes to other family members to playing music and videos (cooking shows, anyone?), all while doing its basic function of keeping food fresh, it gets an upgrade in Family Hub 2.0, which responds to voice control.

“How’s the weather today, FamilyHub?” I ask.

“In Singapore,” it responds, “it is 25 degrees Celsius with a 90 percent chance of rain.”

Soh says food management is a breeze because it comes with its own app. “With its food reminder function, in Australia, they are able to connect it with online supermarket Woolworths to replenish your groceries. Or you can let the app find recipes for whatever you have left in your fridge.”

But is it foolproof?

Directory of Loyalty and Retention in SEA and Oceania’s Karen Peck reports there are now three million users in nine markets who have downloaded the My Samsung app for their digital home appliances at least 20 million times, accessing it for tips and tricks for their growing ecosystem of devices. There are also self-diagnostics tools, “so you know before something goes wrong with your appliances when you’ll need help.” And when you do, customer service is available for assistance. Sometimes, you just need that human touch.

* * *

To find a store near you, visit samsung.com/ph.

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