Electrolux, the Swedish appliance maker, is exploring starting an “Uber for laundry” in which consumers would use their own washing machines to wash other people’s clothes.
Jonas Samuelson, the new chief executive of the world’s second-biggest white goods manufacturer, told the Financial Times that Electrolux was trying to overcome big hurdles to make the project work.
“We have a few fun ideas we are testing, like: how about a laundry Uber, where people share their unused laundry time? But there are enormous complexities such as what happens if the clothes come out and are ruined?” Mr Samuelson added.
Electrolux is focused on boosting its profitability amid tepid revenue growth for white goods such as dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and tumble dryers. Mr Samuelson is seeking to make the company focus more on the demands of consumers by, for instance, making ovens that cook a joint of beef until it is rare rather than requiring the customer to set the temperature and time.
Mr Samuelson said that the Swedish group — which he took over in February after its takeover attempt of General Electric’s appliances business was blocked by US regulators — was “very open to experimentation”.
He said Electrolux’s role in a “laundry Uber” would go well beyond merely providing the washing machines. “You would need intelligent communication in the machines,” he added, without providing a time horizon for reaching the decision.
Electrolux is already facing new competitors away from traditional appliances makers such as Whirlpool and De Longhi. Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Amazon are increasingly focusing on the smart home.
Electrolux has also been making inroads into such technology with an oven that features a camera that sends pictures to your phone and air conditioners able to be controlled from a smartphone app.
Mr Samuelson said that cyber security was “a foundational issue” when it came to such products after reports of connected appliances being hacked.
“If you are not able to ensure that users have full confidence in integrity in their smart homes, they just won’t accept it,” he added.
He argued the solution was not just about software and encryption but “entrenching it in the hardware”. But he contrasted Electrolux’s approach to smart homes with those companies coming more from a software background.
“As we become more and more software, as opposed to hardware, we are working to get into a mode of testing and learning. But it’s a bit different when people buy an appliance that they expect to be in their kitchen for 10-15 years,” he said.
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