Whirlpool head of patents discusses the latest smart appliances. 

Smart appliances are a major component of the smart home experience. Kirk Goodwin, head of patents at Whirlpool Corp., talked with Inventors Digest Editor-in-Chief Reid Creager about what’s new and what’s next.

Kirk Goodwin, Chief Patent Counsel, North American Region & Chief Counsel Global Information Systems at Whirlpool

What are your responsibilities and challenges as they pertain to connected home devices?

It’s been very exciting to lead the patent team at Whirlpool Corporation. Over the past year, Whirlpool has been collaborating and forming collaborations with big names like Google, Amazon, and Apple to make its smart appliances available and appealing to a broad audience.

We are adding connected features to make our smart appliances even more appealing to consumers, including Scan-To-Cook, and Download & GoTM technology; and an adaptive Touch Screen. We are even launching an Apple Watch integration this year for our smart appliances.

A next-level convenience for consumers is Whirlpool’s upcoming integration of the popular recipe app, Yummly. Whirlpool Corporation acquired Yummly last year, and now we’re connecting this powerful tool to our appliances. Yummly 2.0 will improve life in the kitchen by offering guided cooking from select recipes within the app. It will also provide advanced image recognition technology to recommend recipes based on the ingredients people have in their kitchen. It already helps streamline grocery shopping and meal prep with scheduling features and step-by-step video recipe tutorials.

This requires Whirlpool to develop and protect strong consumer-facing connected features and develop healthy and ongoing working relationships with companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple. From a patent perspective, another benefit we’re realizing is the ability to use connected capabilities to help protect our consumers from counterfeit products.

Which products are in your company’s Smart Home Lineup?

Whirlpool brand is launching more than 25 connected products in 2018. We’re not launching innovative technology for technology’s sake; these are purposeful innovations helping consumers care smarter for their loved ones easier, better, and faster. Look for voice control features with smart home assistants, guided cooking with Yummly, and remote control and notifications.

Whirlpool® Smart Kitchen Appliances will help consumers care for their families through the following features:

  • Assisted Cooking, featuring award winning Scan-to-Cook technology
  • Remote Control and Notifications
  • Smarter Customer Care
  • Guided Cooking with YummlyTM
  • Amazon Alexa and Google Home Voice Command capabilities
  • Amazon Virtual Dash

In the area of design, there’s the new sunset bronze suite of appliances that were well received at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. This includes a refrigerator with a pantry-inspired layout featuring a touchless screen that learns, adapts and suggest customized presets based on the family’s routines; a dishwasher with the Download & GoTM option allowing consumers to send customized cycles to the dishwasher right from their phones; and the range and over-the-range microwave with Scan-to-Cook Technology, which eliminates guesswork by sending cooking instructions from a phone to the cooking appliance.

What kind of reaction did these products get at CES?

People loved what they saw. Whirlpool brand and Yummly earned three CES 2018 Innovation Awards—including Whirlpool® Smart Appliances in Fingerprint Resistant Stainless Steel, Whirlpool Smart Over the Range Microwave with Scan-to-Cook Technology, and Yummly 2.0 ingredient recognition and connected recipes.

Whirlpool has a long history as a leader in home appliance sales. Tell us about the impact it has had on innovation.

Innovation is built into Whirlpool Corporation’s culture, and it’s inseparable with making certain features that are meaningful to consumers. We’ve long been on the cutting edge—even creating the first Space Kitchen for NASA in the 1960’s—but the real key is understanding how appliances are used in the home. Knowing our consumers—their likes, dislikes, habits and aspirations—helps inspire us to create innovations that improve their experience with our products. We believe the most powerful innovations are those that can adapt to and fill real human needs. For more information, follow #CareSmarter.

What do you see in the future for these devices? As they become more popular, might the idea of a comprehensive smart home become more affordable?

Whirlpool offerings are price competitive. As the feature benefits continue to increase, so does the consumer value of these products. Look for these connected appliances to have purposeful innovation at an affordable price point for mass consumer adoption.