5 smart home appliances in China that can complicate your life

Imagine a smart home where the curtains are automatically drawn every morning as you wake up, and the lights immediately turned on when you arrive at home in the evening. However, smart home appliances in the real world now sometimes cause more complications than when you are without them. AllChinaTech picked five smart home appliances in China that can make your life more complicated, giving a glimpse of an industry still in the early stages of growth and requiring more improvement.

Midea smart air conditioner

Photo from Baidu Images
Photo from Baidu Images

China’s leading home appliance manufacturer Midea launched a smart air conditioner in August 2016, together with its Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup partners which include Horizon Robotics.

Unlike most home air conditioners that are square-shaped, Midea’s smart air conditioner looks like a ball with a metallic glow. It allows a user to give it orders within a five-meter distance. The problem is that if you want to adjust the temperature or wind speed of an air conditioner, it is better to use hand gestures than giving it verbal orders as voice is less natural than other physical gestures.

Tencent smart refrigerator

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.20.53 PM
Photo from Midea.com

China’s tech giant Tencent released a refrigerator in January with its home appliance partner Midea. Targeting China’s young generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, the penguin-themed refrigerator is adorned with decorations of adorable penguins – the mascot of Tencent’s super messaging app QQ.

The smart machine enables users to remotely control their refrigerator via the app QQ. On top of that, this refrigerator provides a string of entertainment functions including videos, music and radio which leave us wondering why people would need these on a refrigerator. The most absurd function? Using the video chat function on the refrigerator to speak to family and friends. Talking to your mother via a refrigerator screen looks really strange.

Fenshenyu home robot

The Fenshenyu robot. Photo from Baidu
The Fenshenyu robot. Photo from Baidu

China’s search engine giant Baidu and robot startup Ainemo launched a home robot “Fenshenyu” powered by Baidu’s AI assistant platform DuerOS in late April.

The so-called “robot” cannot move around the house with you and barely does more things than an iPad. It also has a standalone camera. Its manufacturer Ainemo claims that you only need to say the name of the television show that you want to watch, and the robot will quickly search and play it for you. But the fact is that it is sometimes difficult to find the video even when the show is searched manually.

Yumai weighing scale

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.36.29 PM
Photo from Iyunmai.com

This product not only measures your weight, body fat, and other data, but it also synchronizes these data into your smartphone.

Although the scale claims to be a good tool to help users keep fit by tracking their health data, the fact is that people seldom pay attention to their diet and workout after reading the numbers on the scale.

If these aforementioned smart home appliances are flawed, then the following one will be just ridiculous.

An air monitoring desk

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.40.30 PM
Photo from Hehedesk.com

Heilian Shuzhuo is literally translated as “dark desk” from Mandarin. Priced at RMB 3,498 (USD 506), this wooden desk can monitor your surroundings and keep records of your habits.

According to its website, it can keep records of the light intensity, air quality and humidity indoors. The desk manufacturer has probably embedded sensing systems inside the desk. If so, why should a user buy this instead of buying a normal desk and a sensing system separately?

These smart home appliances’ seemingly unnatural interactions with people are a sign that the industry is still in its early stages and a lot more improvements are needed to push this forward. Let’s hope that tech companies will continue to perfect smart gadgets, and leave out complicated and unnecessary functions for the sake of practicality.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

Alibaba and Midea launch a smart refrigerator

Tech giant Alibaba Group and Chinese electronic goods maker Midea Group on Thursday announced their strategic partnership in the Internet of Things (IoT), and introduced the first Midea refrigerator based on YunOS. YunOS is one of the world’s largest smartphone operating systems, developed by Alibaba’s cloud computing unit, Aliyun.

“We’re opening a refrigerator door, and we’re also opening the door to a smart and digital lifestyle from the future, where hundreds of millions of households in China can experience a different way of life,” said Zhang Yong, CEO of Alibaba Group.

The multi-door Midea refrigerator, with a volume of 325L, interacts with users via a 10.1 inch screen. It offers multiple smart services such as being remotely controlled using smartphones, recognizing its contents, and recommending recipes. In the near future, when voice recognition is built into it, all you need is to say “I want apples” and it will automatically book some for you online.

Recognizing contents (Photo edited from Baidu Images)
Recognizing contents (Photo edited from Baidu Images)

The refrigerator will be available on the e-commerce platform Tmall from Saturday, priced at RMB 3,999 (USD 599) or RMB 4,999 for an upgraded version.

The partnership of Alibaba and Midea can be traced to 2014, when they joined hands to produce home devices that talk to each other. However, the Midea refrigerator officially symbolizes the start of YunOS@Home, a set of applications designed for users’ daily life at home.

According to Gu Zhicheng, head of smart hardware for the YunOS business unit, YunOS@Home will work with partners to develop in five major fields relevant to home furnishing: kitchen and bathroom, the home environment, healthcare, security and protection, and entertainment.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

China’s Midea Group spends USD 4.8 B in overseas acquisitions in the first half of 2016

Midea Group Co., China’s leading home appliance manufacturer, invested over RMB 32.5 billion (USD 4.8 billion) overseas in the first half of 2016.

In the first half of 2016, Midea initiated several overseas purchases, include taking an 80% stake in Toshiba’s home appliance unit in March, buying an 80% stake in Italian air condition maker Clivet SpA in June, and spending EURO four billion to obtain 72% shares in Kuka, a German robot maker.

These overseas investments are part of Midea’s global expansion plan that will help the company hold a competitive edge in its technology, branding and global distribution channels.

With the rise of globalization and the Internet, this traditional home appliance manufacturer has reinvented itself. In part by working with global smart device makers, including Xiaomi and the Japanese robot maker Yaskawa, Midea has transformed its business from manufacturing and exporting, into building a whole smart device ecosystem. Midea’s overseas acquisitions have played an important role in Midea’s transformation and overseas expansion.

In the future, it is predicted that Midea will upgrade its manufacturing with Kuka’s robot technology, and sell products with Toshiba’s branding.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)