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New Appliance Technology

New Whirlpool Appliance Technology To Include Biometrics, Refrigerator Vacuum Chamber

Concept diagram of a new indoor composter from a Whirlpool patent application.
In the past few weeks, Whirlpool has applied for and received patents on several new technologies and innovations for major appliances. While it may be a few years for these new technologies to be available on appliances for sale, the patent applications can give us a preview of what the future might hold for upcoming appliances.

Biometric Controls On Your Appliances

The new iPhone uses your fingerprint to identify you. Imagine if your microwave or oven could use your physical characteristics to interact with you as well?

In patent application number 20130283183 submitted on October 24, Whirlpool is seeking to protect the idea of appliances that are able to present you with the menu options of your choice based on biometric data such as your height, voice, and appearance.

 Whirlpool's flowchart showing how future smart appliances could use biometrics to change display options.
The idea behind the concept is that as appliance controls get more complex and involved, each user has particular personal preferences, and does not need to see all options all the time. For example, your child might only use the microwave to heat up a snack or their favorite foods. You probably cook a wider range of things, and will want to be able to control the time and power each time you use it.

With Whirlpool's proposed design, when you or your child approaches the microwave, it would be able to tell who you were, based on how tall you are, your voice, and what you look like. It would then change the control panel to suit your preferences. Your child might see a picture menu of options, while you are presented with the option to enter the time and power, or the settings you last used.

Vacuum Chamber for Refrigerator

In September, Whirlpool was granted a patent for a vacuum chamber in a refrigerator door. This patent, number 8528349, covers a special compartment in a refrigerator that would have a seal and vacuum apparatus so as to remove the air from the compartment, prolonging the shelf life of the food inside.

This seems to be a much simpler way to store food in a vacuum than using a separate vacuum sealing appliance. Even if you already vacuum seal some of your foods, having a dedicated compartment in your refrigerator would make it quick and easy to protect certain foods.

New Dishwasher Innovations

Several of Whirlpool's new patent applications and patents have to do with dishwashers.

First, patent application 20130247944 is for a dishwasher rack with a pivot. Have you ever shut your dishwasher door while the bottom rack was out? Doing so saves a bit of effort but can be disastrous to the dishes or the dishwasher rack, as it can cause damage. This new rack slide designed by Whirlpool's inventors pivots the rack and slide so that you can safely lift the door to your dishwasher while retracting the bottom rack.

Next, Whirlpool was granted a patent for a new type of control for a dishwasher. Patent number 8562754 is titled "Dishwasher with a programmable stop time" but in fact the claim goes into more detail. What this new control scheme provides is a bar that tracks the time from the start time to the end time for the dishwasher cycle. It sounds a bit like the download progress bar on your web browser.

According to the description of the claim, you could set the time for the dishwasher to start and stop the cycle, and select options while seeing how long it would take the cycle to run. This is quite a step up from simply delaying the start of your next dishwasher cycle.


 The dishwasher with a transforming door, patent application number 20130228202.
Finally, patent application number 20130228202 is for a dishwasher with a transforming door. While it is probably the most complex of these applications, the essence of the innovation appears to be a dishwasher with two separate compartments, not just two separate racks. The door can be adjusted so you can open one compartment or the other of the dishwasher. This seems to be a lot more flexible for households that seldom fill the whole dishwasher.


Flavored Water Dispenser For Your Fridge And Faucet

Whirlpool was awarded two patents relating to systems for flavored water. One is for a system that mounts on your faucet and allows for the flavor of your choice to be added to the water. The other patent is for an apparatus that works with your refrigerators built-in water dispenser to let you select flavored water.

These should be popular additions when they become available, considering how trendy flavored water and flavored additives for water have been lately.


Kitchen Waste Solutions

The last two patent applications both have to do with garbage.

Patent application 20130270374 is for an under-sink waste processing appliance. From the highly technical description, this sounds like a garbage disposal that can separate liquid waste from the solid pulp that gets ground up. The pulp is then dried by a heater, and can be removed from the chamber instead of getting washed into the sewage system.

If you have a septic system, this sounds like an amazing development. No longer would your solid food that goes through the garbage disposal fill up your septic tank. Whether or not you have a septic system, the reduction of solid matter traveling through your plumbing will reduce the chance of blockage.



 Internal diagram of the Whirlpool composter, with grinding and hydrating systems.
The other kitchen waste patent application, number 20130260446, is an indoor composter. It is not just a special bin for turning your organic kitchen scraps into fertilizer, but a multi-chambered appliance with a built-in grinder and system for conserving thermal energy and moisture for optimal composting.
From the diagrams, it looks like this composter would be about the size of a tall kitchen garbage bin, but with the ability to make in-home recycling a snap.
Just because the patents were applied for or were granted, does not give any timetable or guarantee that these new appliance technologies will be available on the market soon. 

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