Give Sears credit for playing to its strengths. The company and its brands are known for products that are useful around the house rather than fun, trendy tech toys, and that practicality shows in the five new smart-home products the company announced today.
Instead of going for glamour, each of these utilitarian connected products aim for simple convenience. You won't find touchscreens or voice controls. But with simplicity comes inconvenience: None of the products even connect to larger smart-home platforms like Amazon's Alexa or Apple's HomeKit. Products like water softener might seem pretty boring, but the smarts Sears will offer in this suite of products could save homeowners a bit of hassle.
Here are the five devices Sears has introduced. The air conditioner is on shelves now; the rest will be released periodically throughout 2016. You'll be able to buy them all at Sears.com or in select Sears outlets.
- Kenmore Smart Air Conditioner -- $300 -- You'll be able to control this 8,000 BTU A/C on the go and monitor your energy usage with an app.
- Kenmore Smart Water Heater Module -- $70 -- Attach this device to an existing Kenmore heater, and you'll be able to see how much hot water you have remaining before you decide to take an extra long shower. The module will also watch for leaks and turn down the energy usage of the heater when you're away.
- Kenmore Elite Smart Hybrid Water Softener -- $800 -- Yep, it's a device that helps you monitor salt levels and water usage. But it's an important device for homeowners, and the ability to check levels and usage remotely makes a lot of sense.
- Wireless-enabled Craftsman Zero Turn Steerable Riding Mower -- $2,800-$3,200 -- This riding lawnmower will not only tell you when it needs a tuneup, you'll be able to watch videos on the accompanying app that will help you do the maintenance yourself.
- DieHard Smart Charger and Maintainer -- $100 -- Now your car battery can keep itself charged as this device monitors voltage.
Plenty of questions remain, and plenty still needs to be proven. Will the different devices talk to each other? Will you need a different app for each device? When you venture into connected territory, the experience with the app becomes vital, so I'll be curious to see how well Sears does with the software for these products.