Future Developments

A handful of companies are beginning to roll out a new generation of household appliances with Internet or network capability and a range of potential uses. Networked appliances are already available in Asia, and are expected to be available in the United States soon. Some appliances communicate with each other through the home electrical system, while most use the telephone line and an Internet service provider. Manufacturers are hesitant to bring products out, primarily in response to customer's concerns that the new products might not integrate with appliances from other manufacturers. Customers also worry that they may need to rewire their homes, or that their phone lines will be taken over by appliances. Manufacturers are still working out industry standards.

To date, wired microwaves, refrigerators, and washing machines are available that are designed to perform intelligent tasks such as collecting recipes from the Internet, tracking food inventory, and downloading new wash cycles from the Internet for different kinds of clothes. Each component connects to the Internet through telephone lines and built-in modems. Users may also be able to use appliance display screens to make two-way video telephone calls, watch TV, or send e-mail.

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