The networked refrigerator is coming
Last year Liebherr took the initial step in the direction of a digital commercial model in the domestic appliances product area. With the “SmartDeviceBox”, available as an option, Liebherr-Hausgeräte can now supply a means of networking many of its refrigerators and freezers.
How does Andreas Giesa, “Connectivity” Project Manager at Liebherr-Hausgeräte Ochsenhausen GmbH, Germany, view this innovation? “Networking our appliances establishes a fundamental basis for a digital commercial model. The hardware and software have been developed and the underlying IT structures are in place. Now comes the next step with the focus on additional innovative features.” With its internet connection, the SmartDeviceBox can contact the owner of an appliance by e-mail if it detects a malfunction – for instance, if the refrigerator door is accidentally left open. The customer can then react quickly to ensure optimal storage of groceries. He or she can also regulate the temperature and the refrigerating programs with a tablet, smart phone or other terminal.
The “MyLiebherr” portal gives registered customers oneclick access to after-sales service. A service staff employee can be reached directly and can check the appliance’s data by computer and make a remote diagnosis. Both Liebherr and the customer benefit from this new principle, which avoids loss of time.
Since this is a complex topic, the development team from Liebherr’s domestic appliances division cooperated closely with other specialist areas, in particular the Group’s IT experts. For the connectivity project innovation can be regarded not only as the target, but also as the correct way to achieve it. The project team tackled the task flexibly: only the objective was clear from the beginning, the process itself was shaped by the very latest developments. Andreas Giesa explains: “Aligning Liebherr-Hausgeräte as a provider of digital services confronted us with totally new challenges, for which we needed a new development process and new concepts. But the benchmark for the project remained the customer, whose lifestyle and requirements we had to take into account when we developed our new technology.”
Martin Rogg from Liebherr-IT Services GmbH in Kirchdorf an der Iller, Germany, agrees. “This is the background for several new developments we’re working on – for instance an ‘app’. In order to compile a shopping list automatically in the future, it would be necessary to register the items of food in the refrigerator. The user would then only need to look at his or her smart phone to see what is needed.”
A project such as this runs up against a special problem: a refrigerator is designed to last for a very long time, whereas communication technologies are sometimes out of date within a matter of months. For this reason Liebherr has developed the SmartDeviceBox, which can easily be inserted into or removed from the refrigerator. New software can then be loaded, and the appliance remains always up to date. Martin Rogg: “Customers who buy our smart refrigerators are making a reliable investment in the future. Liebherr’s typical ‘long-term thinking’ approach blends perfectly with its claim to technological leadership.”
Networked experts: members of the core team from the domestic appliance and IT business areas
The SmartDeviceBox is simple to install and operate
After-sales functions can be selected easily on the customer portal