Subho-MoulikBy Subho Moulik, Global Head of Innovation, Whirlpool Corporation

We are living in an exciting time of change. Our society is morphing – changes in our economic system, societal structure and resource ecosystem are making themselves felt more acutely now than at any time in the past decades. Technology is developing faster than ever and is also impacting all areas of our lives. And the home is where several of these changes are beginning to come together and manifest themselves.  The confluence of these social, macroeconomic and technology changes gives rise to megatrends that are transforming how we live.  At Whirlpool Corporation, we believe that there are 7 megatrends that will impact society in general and the home in particular.

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These trends interact and converge and it is at these convergence points that I see interesting implications for the home.  For example, at the recent MIT-Whirlpool Corporation Home of the Future Showcase held at the World of Whirlpool, Chicago there was broad alignment across academics, industry participants and start-ups that Fluid Living, Casual Connectivity and Responsible habitats were all trending toward the mainstream. See Exhibit 2 below for a description of the implications we see from this confluence of three megatrends.

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There is another important dimension to how homes are changing – homes typically exist within larger city and town ecosystems.  As Ariel Noyman, from MIT Media Labs, explained at the MIT-Whirlpool Home of the Future Showcase – both today and in the past, cities around world have been composed of clusters determined by the amount of time it takes to walk (15-20 minutes typically) to access local services.  As urbanization intensifies, more and more people are packed into bigger clusters within ever larger cities.  And with new technology in transport and communication, the natural physical limits of time and size for these clusters is growing – urban sprawl is here to stay. In this context – urban homes and their dense, diverse and close proximity environments will be where the innovation of the future happens.

If we take a closer look at the underlying technology driving the rate of innovation in urban environments in general and homes in particular, I think a few stand out for the impact they will have.  Please refer to Exhibit 3 below for a snapshot of how some of these technologies could interact and impact innovation in homes.

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While some of these technologies may take longer to mature than others (e.g., true in-home AI managed appliances) and others may not become as ubiquitous as they were originally forecasted to be (e.g., ubiquitous multi-purpose 3D printing hype from a few years ago versus more specific end-use application 3D printing for consumers today and tomorrow) – these technologies will still transform our home environment.

In less than a decade, several of the key changes listed below may be real:

  • Computing that becomes even more ubiquitous and embedded into the fabric of our homes.
  • Distributed technology and hardware stacks for mobility, manufacturing, consumables, and health integrated into the future home ecosystem.
  • Home layout and design transformation – creating new (and likely smaller) formats for older baby boomers and younger Generation Z adults.
  • Advances in AI allowing “home personality” to become codified, automated and self-learning – enabling personalization and anticipation in the home like never before.
  • Step-change in expectations for what a home provides matched by performance in physical adaptability, functional adaptability, diagnostics, remote communication, security and privacy.

But we also need to think about the barriers and challenges to overcome as this future home becomes a reality, day by day. A highly-connected home can create an overload of sensors, information, and data, and raise questions about data ownership and privacy. It will be necessary to find the right balance between noise and peace, as well as the mechanisms to make make the home of the future secure and private. And if we can find the right balance and provide today’s digital natives the freedom and choice to make the home of the future their own, today’s 5-10 year olds will embrace this home of the future as adults.

All this creates an unparalleled opportunity for established companies, startups, and entrepreneurs to work together in an open and collaborative ecosystem – there is much to do.  At Whirlpool, we continue to look to partner and work within this emerging ecosystem where experiments transcend our labs quickly and deliver real value to consumers every day. Our North Star continues to be delivering simple, efficient and delightful innovation to consumers in their homes – earning their trust and creating demand.  For those who would like to work with us in this space – please reach out to us through idea.whirlpoolcorp.com

There is still no crystal clear path to this future. But there is one inevitable truth – the home of the future is going to be fundamentally different from the home of the present, and this transformation will impact us all.  At Whirlpool, we are at the forefront of helping create this transformation – here is a short whiteboard video that brings to life our perspective on the home of the future.

Whiteboard Video: Imagining and Celebrating the Home of the Future

Please stay tuned for more stories on the women and men of Whirlpool Corporation and their creativity and innovation. It is what we wake up to do – to earn your trust and create the demand for products that make your lives better.