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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK

Business: The Company File

IT calls home

The home of the future will allow remote control of appliances

Forgot to turn off the iron? No problem, you can do it when you get to work.

Telecoms company Ericsson and household goods giant Electrolux have set up a joint venture to create products that allow you to do just that.

The new company expects within a year to be selling household appliances that can be connected to the Internet.

While some household products will offer online ordering via the Internet, other future products will allow remote control.

For this to become a reality, household products need embedded microprocessors and each home needs an "E-box", which acts as a central entry point for the internet, similar to the telephone line.

The two companies plan to invest 70m Swedish kroner (49m). The joint venture will be operational this month.

The future fridge

Already a prototype refrigerator exists.

Electrolux recently unveiled the "Screenfridge", which has a touch screen fitted in the door and a connection to the Internet that allows on-line ordering of food as well as a video camera to send messages to the family.

The fridge also has an optical reader to monitor date stamps on food and manage stocks. It is to be sold from next year at an unspecified price.

Ericsson president Kurt Hellstroem explains: "The kitchen is a natural place for online food shopping and provides the means to reach new groups of Internet users.

"The Electrolux Screenfridge and the Ericsson E-box service gateway give the company a new head start."

Electrolux chief executive Michael Treschow said that in the future consumers "will find appliances that can communicate with the consumers, with other appliances, and with the outside world through the Internet."

These kinds of appliances offer a huge business opportunity not just to manufacturers, but also to Internet service providers.

"Delivering online information and remote supervision services to the household will be come an important new additional revenue stream for them," Mr Hellstroem said.

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