Next on the smart home battlefront, Alexa will draw you a bath


Even within the comfortable cocoon of the homefront, there’s no escaping the forward creep of technology.

Not in the kitchen, where the fridge of the future knows when your heavy cream has expired. Not in the bedroom, where apps track your sleep habits. And no, not even in the most sacred of spaces, the bathroom. At CES, Moen revealed the latest update to its new U by Moen smart shower system: digital assistants.

It’s a big deal for people who, with a single voice command, want to have a warm shower waiting for them first thing in the A.M.

U by Moen looks fundamentally different from most showers. It lacks nozzles for hot or cold, instead regulating temperature through an in-shower control panel connected to a smart phone app. With the Alexa and Siri update, you can now say, “Alexa, turn the shower to 100 degrees” from your bedside and slip into precisely-warmed, piping hot water moments later. If you’re not ready yet – say, you’re busy wrangling a toddler or still under the covers through some especially juicy Instagram posts – the shower can pause the water flow and keep it temperature-ready until you are.

But oh, what could go wrong! Well if you’re in the TV show Mr Robot, potentially everything. But even civilians that aren’t the target of a hacker insurrection, the new technology does beg for some improvement. If the power goes out, for instance, there isn’t a manual, power-free option, although Moen handily sells an optional battery-powered backup. Also, U by Moen can’t pump out water at varying pressure levels, although flow rates are “comparable to what you have today” on a regular faucet at maximum pressure, said Moen senior product manager Michael Poloha.

To install the U by Moen, you’ll need to yank out your current shower, which typically costs US$1,160 (RM4,590) for a two-outlet system and US$2,200 (RM8,706) for a four-outlet system. That’s before the price of installation of the valve by a plumber, which Moen contends isn’t any more difficult than installing a regular shower, and installation of the control panel by a contractor. Needless to say, this isn’t yet the smart shower of the people.

Poloha wouldn’t speculate on future areas of improvement for later generations of U by Moen, but he did note that a second generation of the control panel, to debut in Q2 of this year, will be integrated with Apple’s HomeKit platform. At some point in the not-so-different future, you may be able to say, “Good morning, Siri,” and have your lights turn on, the news begin playing, and the shower warm up.

For smart home naysayers, Poloha contends that “a thermostat is similar to our control,” adding that U by Moen does for showers what Nest did for, well, thermostats. So the question for consumers if really how connected you want to be.

Considering that the luxury tech market has already descended upon toilets – behold, a flashing commode that doubles as a light show – it was only a matter of time until smart showers were next. — Bloomberg