Hoover Candy could be the dark horse of the smart kitchen

Hoover is amassing a big user base with voice controlled appliances

Hoover's plans for the smart kitchen
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The smart home has been dominated by the tech names – Amazon, Google and Apple with Samsung and LG – owning the smart kitchen appliances scene with their ecosystems, standards and AI.

But that doesn’t mean that more traditional home brands are being left behind. Hoover Candy, known for pioneering both the vacuum cleaner and the washing machine, is taking on Silicon Valley with its own tech.

For starters, Hoover has amassed 56% of the smart washing machine market in Europe, with 500,000 users registered with its Hoover Wizard app. Now it's going after smart fridges and ovens. It was an early mover too – it launched app control of appliances back in 2014, adding smart assistant control in 2017 – and this year it’s gone one further, adding voice control of its appliances directly.

Building the Direct Voice system

The smart appliance market has been naturally filled with big tech brands with the capacity to create ecosystems. Samsung has SmartThings and LG has developed its ThinQ system, which enables its smart appliances to talk to each other – with some dubious benefits. The company claims that the oven can warn the dishwasher that a motherlode of burnt on pasta bake is on its way, allegedly making a difference.

The Hoover range keeps things a little more simple. The company has developed its own system across its AXI top range, and the company says it will be filtering down to the lowest products over the next few years.

"In the coming months we will slowly deploy voice across our entire range, and it will be the future of our devices," said Piergiorgio Bonfiglioli, head of connectivity and IOT at Hoover.

But that clearly comes with risks – and the company is competing with some of the big voice assistants by entering this market. But it’s not taking on the development itself. Hoover’s voice system is created on the technology of Dialogflow, a Google-owned voice company based in Silicon Valley.

"We are using our own technology which is based on Dialogflow. It's done inside our company, the technology comes from Google. It runs on Android – and that means we can use Android apps," he continued.

At IFA, we got to listen to the Hoover system being demonstrated (always a tough situation in noisy rooms) and it’s fair to say it’s no Google Assistant or Alexa in terms of recognition or the slightly robotic diction – but probably good enough for a dishwasher, washing machine or refrigerator.

When it comes to voice commands, you can say "milk" and the system will log the food and give you a due date which is based on the type of food. So fresh food is five days, for frozen food it's three months. You can modify the date and when it's going to expire you get a notification.

Bonfiglioli explained how you could also use the system with Alexa instead – although some interactions may require using the built-in voice assistant.

"You can absolutely use Alexa instead of the Hoover voice system. It's a priority system, so the oven is the master," he told us. "When you have more than one, different appliances will get different priorities. You can do around 90% of features with Alexa/Google but not everything. When the conversation becomes too complicated, or if you want to select several parameters during the wash, you will need to do it directly."

The Hoover AXI smart home range

Hoover is launching a series of smart kitchen products – we run through the line-up.


Hoover Vision smart oven

Hoover's smart home vision is best summed up by its smart oven, which went on sale last year. The oven’s door is a full screen Android device, capable of showing what’s inside via a camera.

But the company is upping the ante here as well. It's preparing a voice activated edition (not scheduled to drop until late 2019) which will transform the Vision oven into an Echo Show-style experience. Voice commands can offer ideas on recipes (based on what you have in) and even make voice calls.

That may sound like overkill, but it shows that Hoover is on the same trajectory – and perhaps even further ahead – than Samsung, which spoke at length about the kitchen being the hub of the home, where families gather and friends are entertained.


Hoover AXI Washing Machine

Announced at IFA 2018, the AXI Washing Machine is the latest device to get the voice treatment from Hoover. It has the company’s Direct Voice controls, which offer spoken commands to control programming, washing settings, give advice on stain removal and control of TED. That's the built-in system that helps identify stains and fabric types, which should offer a better wash – smart stuff.

Of course, you can control the AXI Washing Machine with Alexa and Google Assistant – but details are still vague whether you get the same experience with Direct Voice. We were told that most commands will work via Amazon and Google, although “advanced” inputs will require Direct Voice.

Of course, there are washing elements here too, and the drum can handle 13kg of clothes, and features a top-level A+++ efficiency rating. It's also set to cost from £449 for the smallest machine, up to £699 for the biggest washer/dryer combo.


Hoover AXI Dishwasher

Hoover’s AXI dishwasher may have room for a 16 place setting, but it’s pretty smart too. It's currently controlled via Alexa/Google Assistant, so you can start programs and timers via assistants, rather than fiddling with the settings panel. A future version will add the company's Direct Voice technology.

There are some smart washing elements too. The rotary arm is slowed to 500rpm, for a less intense wash at 50 degrees, which should minimise wear and tear on your crockery. What’s more, the door will pop open automatically after a cycle, for faster cooling and drying.


Hoover AXI Fridge Freezer

The company’s smart fridge doesn't yet have a launch date, but builds in AI and voice control – again via Direct Voice. You can shout out items as you put them into your fridge, and the system will offer automatic sell-by dates – and then notify you when food needs to be eaten up. Pretty smart, and probably better on balance than having to add the use-bys manually.

There are other classic fridge elements too. There’s an ice drink coach to make sure you’re chilling your beverages to the right level, monitoring of inside temperatures (readable via the app), and holiday mode, for lower power consumption. It also keeps things cold.


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