EXCLUSIVE: Haier plans ahead


Haier has big plans to lead the smart appliances sector into a new era. “Our next steps are about products becoming even more efficient and even more effective,” says Jim McEwan, from Haier UK & Ireland. He chats to ERT’s Jack Cheeseman.

Haier Europe has not been shy with its bold ambition to be the number one appliance manufacturer, and when it comes to smart home products, the company – with its multiple-brand portfolio of Candy, Hoover and Haier – is certainly one of the market leaders. Last year, the number of registered users on the hOn app (Haier’s own appliance control app, what it calls a “scenario-based ecosystem”) reached 4.5 million. And bosses have said that all Haier products will be connected by 2023.

As part of ERT’s special smart home issue this month, Jim McEwan, Chief Commercial Officer of Haier UK and Ireland (pictured above), speaks to Jack Cheeseman.

“We are continuing our journey to become the supplier of choice for connected appliances,” he says. “In April we held our 1 Vision Conference in Manchester and we laid out our plans to be number one in the UK and Ireland by the end of 2023. And I am delighted to say that we are on course to achieve that goal.

“But,” he adds, “we are committed to achieving it in a sustainable way; it’s not a chase for the sake of it. With our three brands we believe we have exactly the right product solution for any consumer no matter what they need. So it’s about building the right value through the right products to secure and maintain our position in a very sustainable way.”


Q: Tell me about some of Haier’s latest smart appliances and their key functions and benefits.

Jim McEwan: There are a lot of capabilities within our ranges. Within built-in cooking we’ve just launched our Series 6 range that features smart technology and there’s our I-Pro Series range of washing machines [left].

Just last month, we released our new Cube 90 Series 7 four-door fridge-freezer, which has a humidity zone so users can store different foods and control the level of humidity which can help to extend the life of produce. Food waste and cost of living are big topics right now, so anything that we can do using smart technology to help extend the life of food is a positive thing all-round.

And we have our hOn app which covers all our product areas across Candy, Hoover and Haier. The benefit to the consumer, of course, is keeping everything contained all in one place.

Q: How would you say the smart appliances market is developing, and how is Haier keeping up with the changes?

JM: It is an area that is expanding rapidly! A report from Blue Weave came out recently on the global smart home appliances market; last year it was worth just over $32 billion dollars, which is growth year-on-year of just over 12 per cent. So that’s the type of acceleration we are seeing now, and we are proud to already be the number one smart home appliance manufacturer in Europe, according to Euromonitor.

A big change has been the development of technology that is even more useful for the consumer. In the past, features can be seen as a little bit ‘gimmicky’ and not particularly beneficial, but I think technology now is starting to come through in a very different way.

Something we are working on at the moment in our fridge-freezers is a function that will recognise the food the consumer has in there, and then associated recipes can be advised through the hOn app [left] on what particular dishes they can make with what they have available. The fridge will also have the ability to talk to the oven to share what they are about to cook and it will select the right program to give the consumer the best cooking results.

More generally, everything that we do and everything that we touch day-to-day is getting smarter, so the IoT [Internet of Things] and AI [Artificial Intelligence] are starting to become real focus points for a number of manufacturers, and we see significant growth in the market around this.

Q: With so many capabilities and possibilities these days, R&D must be so important to Haier to help push things forward?

JM: It’s so crucial of course. A big ethos of the Haier business going forward is creating the very best ecosystem for the consumer through the use of smart technology and the IoT. It isn’t just about getting them to use Haier products, it’s about working with the right partners to bring the most useful and beneficial solutions into their homes.

So R&D is absolutely key. Right up to the very senior board level of the company in China and into the European teams, we’ve got individual committees focused in different areas of smart appliance development to make sure that we can keep our technology ahead of the game.

Q: In order to showcase and demonstrate your technologies, how important is your retail network to bring these to consumers on the front line?

The hOn app

JM: There are some amazing appliances on the market nowadays, and explaining how they work to a consumer is absolutely vital, of course. I think some behaviour changes are helping, as people are far more aware of the cost of things now; with smart meters and similar gadgets people can tell how much energy they are using, but smart appliances can help to cut down energy bills and keep food fresher for longer. Getting these key messages across in the right way is vital.

For us, physically getting product on to retailers’ shop floors so the customer can touch and feel and experience it first-hand is really important for that immediate engagement; instead of things being too overly technical, they simply need to hear how our products will help make their life that little bit better.

Q: What are Haier’s longer-term goals? What products could we see in the future?

JM: For us it’s about the product really learning how the consumer uses it and adapting to their individual needs. In cooking for example, we are developing technology where if you like to cook a roast joint in a particular way the oven will learn this and store the settings for that specific food so it can repeat the results again and again.

In refrigeration, our technology will learn where and when consumers usually do their food shopping and it will adjust the environment within the fridge-freezer to the perfect conditions for when the groceries are unpacked.

Our next steps are really all about appliances becoming even more efficient and even more effective. This ties in to the development of a complete ecosystem and working with the right partners to provide a full solution to the consumer.