Kohler’s fully immersive flagship intelligent toilet experience

Image: Kohler

CES, the consumer electronics show, is the apotheosis of overblown technology demos and promises. Exuberant press releases abound. Kohler’s bathroom products are now fully digital, connected, and interactive — so it must compete on hype with the likes of Facebook and Samsung.

Let’s just say that after reading the company’s latest press release, I’m flush with excitement. It almost defies parody. Almost.

Here’s an abridged version of the release with commentary and translation. (I’ve left out a few products — the full release is here.)

I’ve put jargon and over-the-top meaningless adjectives and adverbs (weasel words) in bold italic.

KOHLER Announces Smart Products for the Kitchen and Bathroom, Expands Voice Control, Lighting and Music Experiences through KOHLER Konnect

Kohler Introduces the Veil Lighted Bathroom Collection at CES 2019; offers more voice control options through enhancements to Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror and Numi Intelligent Toilet

Commentary: I like the title, which intrigues. The subtitle adds little but product names intended to tease SEO, rather than inform readers. Even so, if you’re looking for an intelligent toilet, you’ve found the right press release.

KOHLER, Wis.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Kohler Co., a global leader in the design and innovation of kitchen and bath products, announces enhancements to its KOHLER Konnect portfolio of smart products at CES 2019. Building on its debut at CES in 2018, Kohler extends voice control technology, improves music and lighting experiences, and introduces the Veil Lighted bathroom collection, the first-ever connected bathroom suite that works together as a system.

Commentary: I’m trying and failing to picture the consumer who says to their contractor, “I’d like a connected bathroom suite that works together as a system.” I recently remodeled my bathroom, but I concentrated on plumbing and fixtures that looked decent and worked effectively. When we connect in there we just use tablets and phones like everybody else.

Translation: Kohler announces new bathroom products that feature music, lighting, and voice control — and work together.

KOHLER Konnect, introduced at CES 2018, features innovative kitchen and bath products that use voice commands, hands-free motion control, and personalized presets managed through the KOHLER Konnect application for iOS and Android devices. Powered by the trusted and global-scale Microsoft Azure cloud platform and Azure IoT services, KOHLER Konnect offers support in select products for Amazon Alexa, the Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit. KOHLER Konnect is expanding with additional options for personalized control and whole-room solutions adding convenience, comfort, and enjoyment to the home.

Commentary: I suppose we should be grateful for the cues that this will be a bullshit-laden press release visible in the second paragraph. The writer had to find a way to fit the vendor names into this paragraph; words like “global-scale” reflect the pernicious process of vendor approvals that impair actual content. As for that content, I like convenience and comfort in my bathroom. Enjoyment . . . well, that’s not what I count on from my bathroom fixtures.

Translation: Kohler Konnect works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. We built it on Microsoft Azure, the cloud platform. You can control it with your voice, hand motions, or an app. Don’t worry, in the privacy of your bathroom, no one else will see you talking and gesturing to your toilet.

“Connected technology is driving innovation in the smart home category, but connectivity alone isn’t enough. We believe in leading with design and seamlessly incorporating the right technologies so that our customers can personalize their bathroom experiences to be just right for them,” said David Kohler, President and CEO of Kohler Co. “For 145 years, Kohler has brought innovative and quality products to the marketplace that offer convenience and comfort in kitchen and bath spaces. KOHLER Konnect continues our industry leadership by offering whole-room solutions with more voice control, better music and sound, and dynamic lighting environments through our KOHLER Konnect portfolio.”

Commentary: Repetitive with what’s just been said. And any PR pro who writes phrases like “driving innovation,” “seamlessly,” and “whole-room solutions” and sticks them in the mouth of the CEO should take a cold shower. (“Alexa, tell Kohler to start a cold shower for me.”)

Translation: “After 145 years, we had to add some technology like voice control, music, and lighting to our fixtures to get some attention at CES,” said David Kohler, President and CEO of Kohler Co.

Veil Lighted Bathroom Collection: The new Veil Lighted bathroom collection brings immersive, connected lighting into the entire bathroom space. The full contemporary suite of products includes an intelligent toilet, freestanding bath, lighted mirror, and lighted three-piece vanity that work together as a system with integrated lighting. Automated synchronized lighting options mimic nature to create various moods that enhance well-being. The Veil Lighted collection gives the power of personalization directly to the user and is adjustable with voice, motion-control, a physical remote controller, or the KOHLER Konnect app. The collection embodies a beautiful modern design aesthetic and currently works with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant.

As an extension of the Veil Lighted bathroom collection, Kohler is collaborating with Signify, maker of the leading smart lighting system for the home, Philips Hue. Kohler has integrated Hue’s API so users can also control their Philips Hue lights via the KOHLER Konnect app to provide a synchronized, full-bathroom smart lighting experience.

Commentary: If you make bathtubs, sinks, and toilets, you have to be careful how you use the word “immersive.” “[T]he power of personalization directly to the user,” is redundant — who else is going to personalize things, if not the consumer? The word “user” is bad enough in a computer context, but in the bathroom, I really don’t think of myself as a “user” of lighting.

Translation: You can change the lighting by talking to your bathroom, gesturing, tapping on your phone, or pressing a remote. Now you can finally find out what combination of colored lights is most conducive to a relaxing and productive moment on the throne.

Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet: Numi, Kohler’s most advanced intelligent toilet, offers exceptional water efficiency, personalized cleansing and dryer functions, a heated seat, and high-quality built-in speakers. The lighting features on Kohler’s flagship intelligent toilet have been upgraded from static colors to dynamic and interactive multi-colored ambient and surround lighting. Paired with the new speakers in the Numi toilet, these lighting and audio enhancements create a fully-immersive experience for homeowners. Amazon Alexa built into the product provides simple voice control of Numi’s features and access to tens of thousands of skills, as well as a seamless integration of voice control into the bathroom.

Commentary: “Immersive” and “toilet” are two words that an editor should never have allowed to appear in the same paragraph. (“Flagship intelligent toilet,” on the other hand, would be a great name for a band.) I can’t wait to try Alexa on the potty. “Alexa, start my conference call.” “Alexa, sell all my Kohler stock.” “Alexa, play ‘Stayin’ Alive’ and shift the bathroom lights into Saturday Night Fever Mode.”

Translation: Our Numi toilet lets you heat, wash, and dry your bum; play music; and control the lights with Alexa voice commands.

For more details, visit www.kohler.com/smarthome or contact Kohler at 1-800-4KOHLER. Attendees at CES 2019 can explore immersive bathroom spaces that simulate real-life environments and provide a firsthand look at various scenes that tie Kohler kitchen and bath products together in meaningful ways.

About Kohler Co.

Founded in 1873 and headquartered in Kohler, Wisconsin, Kohler Co. is one of America’s oldest and largest privately held companies comprised of nearly 37,000 associates. With more than 50 manufacturing locations worldwide, Kohler is a global lifestyle brand and leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products; engines and power systems; premier cabinetry and tile; and owner/operator of two of the world’s finest five-star hospitality and golf resort destinations in Kohler, Wisconsin, and St. Andrews, Scotland.

What to do when your products are absurd

I feel for the poor PR folks at Kohler. They’re announcing a line of sophisticated products in a technology-drenched environment. The temptation to compete with the most extreme and jargon-laden CES announcements must have been immense.

But when you make toilets and sinks, you’re not going to win that battle.

On the other hand, intelligent toilets, flagship or not, are going to get some attention.

There are two ways to go with this.

First, inject some humor. The squatty potty folks have had a blast with this, but I suspect it would never fly with Kohler’s corporate.

Second, play it straight. Talk about not just what your products do (in straightforward terms), but who is using them and what benefits they deliver.

I think a quote from a bathroom contractor would have made this release a lot more believable, for example.

And get an editor to keep you from inadvertently conjuring images of immersive toilets. That’s a real mood-buster.

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