Sunday, July 21, 2024

How AI is taking over routine home chores in Africa

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Competition in the design and capability of home appliances is heating up, with manufacturers now deploying frontier technologies to attract users.

When the Covid-19 pandemic moved people from offices to home, the idea of a house Internet of Things (IoT) became more urgent, and companies such as Samsung, LG, Whirlpool, Farberware, Magic Chef and GE have been fighting for a slice of the new market.

From dishwashing, floor cleaning, food preservation, air conditioning, cooking to laundry, users are tapping technology to create conducive and convenient home working conditions.

Consumer electronics provider LG is one of the firms deploying modern tech to perform laundry work, having announced the introduction of a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered washing machine into the Kenyan market.

World over, AI has been deployed in a number of ways to make work easier, more accurate and less costly. This is what LG’s 2021 Vivace 950 (V950) seeks to do.

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“V950 machine is aimed at making it easier for everyone from professionals to working mothers to maintain a happier, healthier home as they attempt to balance work and family life,” LG Electronics East Africa managing director Sa Nyuong Kim told Digital Business.

Meant to help users strike a good work-life balance, the 12 kilo, AI DD washer can not only detect the weight of clothes but also senses the softness of fabric, while it chooses the optimal motions for the fabric by itself.

To achieve this, LG said it used Deep Learning, a tech sub-set of AI in the form of a neural network with three or more layers.

These neural networks attempt to simulate the behaviour of the human brain — albeit far from matching its ability — allowing it to “learn” from large amounts of data. Consequently, it enables systems to cluster data and make predictions with incredible accuracy.

LG is using this technology to deeply analyse huge chunks of data about cloth fabric, water and detergent and automatically, through sensors, recommend the most optimal machine performance to enhance effectiveness and efficiency.

This means the washer can detect a mixed load of t-shirts and jeans, differently from bedding, baby clothes, and programme the wash cycle to use customised motions, temperatures and times for the optimal wash.

“At the centre of our mission is to help consumers embrace life and prepare them for its greatest moments. From where I sit, no better washing machine would have delivered this objective better than the LG AI Direct Drive (DD) V950 washer. To us, life is about more than just having the latest technology. It’s about the experiences technology creates,” notes Mr Kim.

It is the latest upgrade from the AI DD line-up of washing machines with the last model (2020) being the V900 and previous models V500 and V300. In terms of capacity, the previous models could only handle between seven and 10.5Kg on a standard cotton washing cycle.

Data from research firm GFK shows that the global market for small and large household appliances recorded an excellent first half of 2021, with sales of small appliances up 21 percent and large appliances jumping 31 percent compared to the same period last year, which was impacted by lockdowns.

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Internal data from LG reveals that uptake from washing machines has gone up by 37 percent compared to last year while that for AI Direct Drive (AI DD) has increased by 219 percent.

Compared to the V900, the LG’s V950 has an EZDispense feature which is an auto detergent feeder that helps the washer to detect the amount of laundry and automatically release the appropriate amount of detergent for up to 35 washes. It also notifies the user when they need a refill.

It also comes with a TurboWash360° feature where the washer is able to considerably reduce washing time by use of 4 nozzles that spray water while washing and rinsing.

Samsung on its part has been using AI to improve the product experience for several years now, and it has launched the Samsung WindFree air conditioner in Kenya, meant to cut energy consumption by 55 percent.

The air conditioner ensures that room temperatures remain regulated according to the user’s preferences. It’s further designed to use AI algorithms and sensors to cool or heat wide and large areas, meaning the temperature of an entire room can be managed easily.

Samsung said the air conditioner comes with a feature that automatically manages the temperature of the room while people are asleep to optimise the various stages of their sleep cycle.

“AI technology is here with us and we are working on ensuring that all our electronics are AI-enabled. We are ensuring that you can control your office from the palm of your hand and at your convenience,” Sam Odhiambo, Samsung Electronics East Africa Head of Consumer Electronics told Digital Business.

The device provides users with an effective cooling experience without the unpleasant sensation of harsh, cold air blowing directly onto their skin.

Once the desired temperature is set, it will “quietly and gently disperse cool air through 23,000 micro air holes to ensure that everyone in the room does not feel an annoying draft.”

Samuel Musila
Samuel Musila
Passionate Software Developer and Tech content creator From Nairobi, Kenya

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