The Headaches of Homeownership

Two of the biggest headaches of homeownership are the knowledge and time necessary for proper home maintenance, and dealing with the financial and emotional heartache of major, unexpected repairs. A less disciplined approach to maintenance will further compound the likelihood that a homeowner will encounter an emergency breakdown of some kind, at the worst possible moment.

The latest results from HomeServe’s biannual State of the Home survey underscore the seriousness of these “headaches” with the following findings:

  • 36% of homeowners have less than $500 – or nothing at all – set aside for an emergency home repair
  • 62% of homeowners have had a home repair emergency in the past 12 months

Meanwhile smart appliance vendors have continued to innovate in terms of customer-facing features (e.g. ease-of-use, personalization, device interconnectivity, remote access, voice-commands, etc.). However, we have become more excited about the potential for smart devices to facilitate proactive maintenance, referred to in academic & industry communities as Prescriptive Maintenance.

Today, virtually any consumer item can be available as a “smart” device, which implies, in simple terms, that a product is: connected to a computer network (most often the Internet) and available to nearby devices; can be controlled remotely, usually with a mobile app; and can collect & analyze performance data that can be used to improve the overall experience. With sufficient data and crafty algorithms, devices can be truly smart by “learning” – often referred to as having Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning capabilities.

This ability for connected devices to “learn” and be remotely controlled has incredible implications for homeowners in terms of being able to maintain highly functioning and reliable household infrastructures, consisting of appliances, products and systems.

Similar to advances made in the automotive industry, real-time data can be leveraged to signal helpful guidance to homeowners from tips on optimal usage to urgent warnings that a system failure may be imminent.

Ubiquitous smart home technology is the underlying framework that will make Prescriptive Home Maintenance an invaluable reality for homeowners.

What is Prescriptive Home Maintenance?

Prescriptive maintenance is the practice of continuously collecting and analyzing data about an equipment’s condition and status to provide recommendations and options proactively, that reduce operational risks and downtime, and extend its lifespan. Once alerted to a performance issue, the user is then given options to choose how they wish to resolve the given matter (e.g. use the appliance at reduced capacity; run a maintenance utility, like a Clean cycle; administer a DIY solution, such as replacing a filter; or stop usage altogether and schedule an on-site repair).

How LG’s ThinQ App Helps with Prescriptive Maintenance

What are the Benefits of Prescriptive Maintenance?

In short, Prescriptive Maintenance will enable optimal performance for your home appliances, reduce inconvenience and costs of maintenance and repairs, while significantly extending the lifespans of products.

The confluence of Digitization, Big Data Analytics and IoT, means that we are on the verge of utopian era of home maintenance! With digital Prescriptive Maintenance, devices can predict potential failures and autonomously trigger maintenance tasks, with minimal human intervention required.

No longer will homeowners come home from a two week vacation to discover that a water pipe has burst flooding the entire house in the dead of winter. Never again will you set the washing machine to complete a cycle of white items, only to discover a catastrophic failure has left your best, cotton sheets soaking in bleach for the last two hours.

In parallel, innovators within the Insurance and Home Warranty industries are also using smart home sensors (a key component of Prescriptive Maintenance) to help homeowners proactively detect system faults and prevent accidents, such as water leaks, changing temperatures, and poor air quality. Research conducted by JD Power states that 34% of consumers would be willing to switch to an insurance carrier that offered preventative loss and protection services.

Insurance carriers are already offering cost-savings to homeowners who have smart devices that reduce the likelihood of accidents, break-ins and damages.

To help put the concept of Prescriptive into proper context, let’s look at the Evolution of Maintenance for a durable good.

The Evolution of Maintenance

Unfortunately, we have been trained to accept maintenance as primarily a reactive service, something done to fix a problem after-the-fact. This passive approach to home maintenance is significantly more risky and costly for several reasons:

  • Materials are more costly: replacing expensive components versus inexpensive accessory parts
  • Labor required to fix the problem is more costly: more time is needed; more experienced workers are needed to resolve more complex issues
  • Peripheral Damages may add to the cost and down-time: water; fire; loss of personal property; etc.

Productive -> Preventive -> Predictive -> Prescriptive

Productive Maintenance

Productive maintenance can also be referred to as Traditional Maintenance, and is classified as the worst case scenario for maintenance. This scenario requires that one uses a product, say a washing machine, until it breaks down completely or fails to operate in the intended manner (e.g. the rinse cycle fails to wring out the clothes completely). A repair person is called, repairs are made and the device is then back in service washing your clothes as expected. This traditional process is known as the reactive response to maintenance.

Productive -> Preventive -> Predictive -> Prescriptive

Preventive Maintenance

Using the washing machine example again, if we had a repair person come out periodically to run diagnostic tests to make sure that the device performed optimally throughout its lifecycle, this would be Preventive Maintenance. This is a similar model as car maintenance schedules – definitely helpful, but unforeseen problems could still arise in between checkups, with little or no warning that a breakdown is about to occur. Aggregate data for a class of product is used to define recommended schedules and preventative tasks.

Productive -> Preventive -> Predictive -> Prescriptive

Predictive Maintenance

The next level of maintenance is referred to as Predictive Maintenance. This involves the process of leveraging performance data specific to a given appliance to identify likely problems and the need to request a repair checkup or service. This is similar to Preventive, but it uses real performance data of a given device to issue a warning, when compared to historical data. For example, a device may have a preventative checkup schedule of every two years, based on an estimated number of cycles. However, if a device is used at a faster rate, a warning message would be signaled to communicate that this checkup needs to occur sooner or more frequently.

Productive -> Preventive -> Predictive -> Prescriptive

Prescriptive Maintenance

Given that predictive maintenance sounds fairly effective, how could Prescriptive Maintenance be even better? Prescriptive Maintenance combines predictive data with recommended actions, including actions that can be automated. This type of proactive customer care can increase the reliability of your home assets by actively monitoring and “re-tooling” the item’s software to improve quality and uptime.

Instead of just predicting impending failure, prescriptive maintenance provides solutions that are focused on continued operations and continual maintenance by ensuring predictable uptime and reliability without “out of service” time. More importantly prescriptive care can prevent damage to your home due to faulty operation (e.g. water leaks, fires, damaged clothes, etc.).

How Predictive Analytics Helps Prescriptive Maintenance

This form of best-practice maintenance relies on passive diagnostics to inform and influence repair through internet monitoring and responsive feedback. This method not only alerts you that a problem is likely to occur, but also provides multiple resolution scenarios from which to choose.

In other words, if your washing machine, using predictive analytics, gives you a warning that the drive belt has a couple of weeks of normal usage remaining, you could schedule your repair visit to optimally coordinate with your normal routine, without incurring any unnecessary down-time.

Thus, prescriptive maintenance is often called the “outcome-focused” approach to maintenance due to the fact that you can control the outcome or enhance the management of a product, without the risk of system failure.

Additionally, analytics specific to your unit will further reduce both the time and cost necessary to resolve the issue:

  • Easy-to-resolve issues can be addressed without requiring an on-site visit, e.g.: automated software updates; explanatory DIY instructions with video for homeowners; real-time virtual assistance can instruct homeowners through tasks; etc.
  • Problems can be accurately diagnosed prior to a visit, reducing additional delays, e.g.: requisite parts can be sourced prior to an on-site visit; appropriate personnel can be assigned the repair; on-site personnel are fully prepared on what to expect; etc.

Prescriptive maintenance may seem like a futuristic view of products that have an “end life”. However with the digitization currently being employed in both manufacturing and usage of durable goods, keeping a washing machine humming along until the end of your life is becoming a reality today.

A Real-World Example of Prescriptive Maintenance: LG’s Proactive Customer Care Program

In January, 2020, LG launched its innovative Proactive Customer Care program for its ThinQ line of smart home appliances. Their overarching value proposition is peace of mind, as the devices provide real-time appliance usage data that helps to ensure that their products are always performing optimally.

The service is activated and managed via the LG ThinQ app for eligible appliances. The key maintenance feature is providing automated notifications that contain contextual alerts and helpful reports based on your appliance’s usage data and status.

The maintenance role of the ThinQ app is to provide Smart Diagnosis. As a testament to the effectiveness of this program, LG states on their website that over 30% of customers receiving alerts were able to self-remedy a problem, eliminating the need for a service call. Furthermore, a June 2020 survey of over 13,000 LG customers that receive alerts & notifications gave the service a rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

LG’s latest smart appliances are also being equipped with device-to-device connectivity features and the LG Home Energy Management System (HEMS), which will improve energy efficiency, as well.

LG ThinQ Proactive Customer Care

 

Examples of Prescriptive Notification Alerts for LG Compatible Appliances:

Washer & Dryer

  • Too much detergent, perform Tub Clean before next load
  • Detecting inadequate hot water supply, check hot water supply
  • Floor level needs adjustment

Refrigerator

  • Time to change water filter
  • Shop here to find a compatible filter

Dishwasher

  • Needs to be cleaned, complete Machine Clean cycle

Oven

  • Time to perform Easy Clean, once a month
  • Time to perform Self Clean, every 3 months

The complimentary AI-powered service is available for more than 70 Wi-Fi enabled LG smart appliance models – including washers, dryers, refrigerators and ranges. LG announced plans to make the Proactive Customer Care program available on more than 1 million LG smart appliances within the first year of implementation. You can find the current list of eligible LG products on their Proactive Customer Care page.

We expect that other leading smart appliance brands, such as Whirlpool, Samsung, KitchenAid, Bosch, and Frigidaire, will be taking a similar, more comprehensive approach to prescriptive maintenance soon. In our opinion, this is just a matter of time, as consumers will demand that smart technology tangibly improve the reliability and longevity of their most important home appliances and systems, while also increasing safety and energy-efficiency.

What If My House is not “Smart Enough”?

Regardless if you do not own eligible appliances or do not have an adequate technology platform, here are tips to help you take steps to improve your overall approach to maintenance, with the goal of striving towards Prescriptive Maintenance.

Get Familiar with Available Sensors & Monitoring Apps

There are many types of sensors available for use in the home, e.g.: motion; air quality; water leaks; sound; smoke/carbon dioxide; temperature/humidity; light/UV; radon; electricity usage; and location. In general, a sensor works with an app that collects and displays data from the device and enables the user to manage the device. Getting familiar with these options can help you prioritize what is most important to you. Don’t worry if what you want to monitor is not currently “smart”.

Though these systems may not be able to diagnosis the intricacies of a specific appliance, they can proactively make you aware of underlying issues possibly caused by poorly performing systems in your home.

Also check if the sensor company has a partnership page, as innovators like Notion, are making their products available through insurance carriers and home service providers. They will also be launching a new Professional Monitoring Service that may be of special interest to independent property owners, owners of vacation homes and families that frequently travel.

Check with Your Insurance Carrier

Disruptors in the insurance industry are investing in technology that helps their customers proactively reduce risk and chances of accidents. One example is Hippo Insurance, who was the first carrier to partner with Notion, the manufacturer of smart home sensors. Hippo provides complimentary Notion smart home devices to clients to protect homeowners against water leaks, fire damage, and break-ins.

If your insurance carrier does not offer complimentary smart sensors, they will likely offer cost-savings for using eligible smart home devices, including discounts to purchase them.

Check with Your Home Warranty Company

Disruptors in the Home Warranty industry also see value in providing customers smart home sensors that can either prevent problems or signal a need for timely, lower-cost maintenance repair. Cinch Home Services is using Notion water leak sensors as part of all of their home warranty plans. They also have on-demand repair services, even if you do not  currently have a warranty account with them.

Another case is HouseCheck, yet another partner of Notion’s, that provide services around their smart sensor devices for tracking home usage, including energy efficiency.

Try a Virtual Diagnosis Service

If scheduling an on-site repair visit is not appealing or conducive to your lifestyle, you should try Neli, a virtual appliance repair service that connects homeowners to pre-screened, certified technicians via phone, video chat or text. If your problem is successfully diagnosed and a part is not needed, the technician will walk you through the repair, at no additional cost. Their blog is also especially helpful explaining frequently encountered error codes for popular appliance brands. If the technician cannot diagnose the problem, the homeowner will receive a full refund.

Signup for a Home Maintenance Plan

If you find smart home technology intimidating and the options to be confusing, you can also sign up for a preventive maintenance subscription plan that will give you peace of mind that key systems and areas of your home are periodically checked by professionals. TruBlue Total House Care is setting the best-practice example in this space.

Prescriptive Maintenance Resources

LG Proactive Customer Care
LG ThinQ App
Samsung SmartThings Home Care Wizard
Samsung SmartThings Products & Services
Verv: Embeddable Prescriptive Maintenance Chips for Appliances

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