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Sunbeam appliances will talk to each other, Net

The home appliance maker says it plans to debut a new line of "smart appliances" that can automatically network with each other and download information via the Internet.

Home appliance maker Sunbeam today said it plans to debut a new line of so-called smart appliances that can automatically network with each other and download information via the Internet.

Set to debut at the International Housewares 2000 Show, Sunbeam's new line of smart appliances, called HLT, or Home Linking Technology, includes products such as the HomeHelper Kitchen Console, the HandHelper Personal Digital Assistant and the TimeHelper Alarm Clock, the company said in a statement.

Sunbeam's TimeHelper alarm clock can be used as an ordinary alarm clock or it can send and receive commands to and from other smart products such as the new Smart Sunbeam coffeemaker, electric blanket and smoke alarm, the company said. With the TimeHelper clock, these products "talk" to each other via household wiring, without any special programming. For example, the clock can alert consumers when they forget to put water in the coffeemaker, or automatically turn off the electronic blanket when the alarm sounds.

Sunbeam's Kitchen Console can connect to the Internet and has additional memory to store specific information such as recipes, schedules and appointments. A modem on the TimeHelper clock will enable it to connect to the Internet overnight to download weather forecasts and the morning's news headlines, the company said.

Yesterday, General Electric and Maytag made a similar announcement and said they will work together with software giant Microsoft to develop standards for connecting smart appliances with other consumer devices. Among the products GE debuted at a trade show were a microwave that reads Universal Product Codes and a Web-enabled refrigerator that would let consumers monitor home appliances through the Internet.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Sunbeam said it has also developed a new company called Thalia Products to produce smart appliances and services and to license HLT to other manufacturers. Thalia and Sunbeam HLT smart appliance products will begin shipping by the end of 2000, the company said. No pricing was announced.