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The coffee maker in your home can be programmed to turn itself on each morning. Your family doesnt have to turn the car around and go back home to check the iron when you are half way to the beach. The iron will shut itself off. Pretty smart, you think. Well, appliances are about to get even smarter. The next step will be to have appliances in the home communicate with one another.

Italys Merloni Elettrodomestici will soon introduce a line of digital appliances--a refrigerator, dishwasher, and washing machine--that communicate with each other through standard electrical wiring. Each machine will monitor total power consumption in the home and cut consumption if it senses a potential circuit overload. The machines can be programmed so that their heavy energy use takes place at off-peak hours. These appliances will even be able to monitor their own status and notify a repair center via the Internet if problems develop.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Media Lab is working on a project called Kitchen Sync--the kitchen of the future. In that kitchen, all the appliances will be networked. If you want to bake a cake, the refrigerator and cupboards will check to see if you have all the ingredients, the oven will preheat itself at the proper time, and a computerized voice will give you directions for making your cake