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The smart kitchen is set to unleash a foodie revolution

By Brian S Hall / February 12, 2014


The smart kitchen is set to unleash a foodie revolution

The kitchen may be the most comforting and traditional room in your home, but equipment manufacturers and app developers are coming up with ways to turn your culinary quarters into a haven of innovation. The new smart kitchen is powered by software, smartphones, connected appliances, data in the cloud, the wisdom of the crowd and soon, robotic sous chefs. It may sound like something out of The Fifth Element, but this reality is closer than you think.

What’s cooking in future kitchens?

Smart ovens, smart refrigerators, apps that tell you exactly what to eat according to your current diet and exercise routine, and even a smart grill that learns your preferences are already here. Whether you love cooking or would rather stick to eating, there’s no denying these new instruments are worth getting excited about.

At this year’s CES, Whirlpool offered up the stove of 2020: a marble countertop that incorporates smart sensors to detect when pots are placed on the surface and how to heat them accordingly. An embedded display provides recipes and other content to make the cooking experience easier and more enjoyable.

The smart countertop proved especially popular with CES conference attendees, as it aligns with our current understanding of personal computing — a pane of glass, a touch interface and nearly unlimited possibilities. Want something sooner? Done.

GE’s lineup of Brillion smart appliances are available now. These appliances connect to your smartphone to provide added convenience for the harried homeowner. As the company’s graphic reveals, connecting an appliance with your smartphone makes life a bit less hectic through mobile commands and alerts.

Smart Appliances Meet Smartphones

The smart kitchen is still evolving

Connecting appliances to our smart devices and cloud creates new possibilities for convenience and delight. Smart kitchen appliances can tell us what we need to purchase from the grocery store, improve our cooking abilities and keep us entertained while we prep the family meal, but simply placing a tablet-like display into a stovetop or installing a speaker system into a refrigerator door doesn’t always make it smarter.

Whirlpool’s CoolVox refrigerator, complete with built-in Harman Kardon speakers, may be able to stream music throughout your entire kitchen, but what really makes it useful is its ability to give users audio clips of recipes and cooking instructions while they prepare the perfect meal. Appliance makers like Whirlpool understand that technology, data, sensors and content permeate all aspects of our lives. The kitchen will be no different. There will be some missteps along the way, but for now, connecting smart kitchen appliances to your home WiFi has becoming the de facto baseline feature.

More commanding than Gordon Ramsay

If you’ve been disappointed in Siri or how your car’s audio controls can’t seem to understand simple commands such as “dial,” you may soon be in luck. LG’s lineup of ThinQ appliances are designed so users can query their appliances and receive responses in conversational language. The ThinQ appliances, including stoves, washers, dryers and refrigerators, use LG’s proprietary “HomeChat” service, which allows users to send commands and questions to their appliances, such as:

  • “Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.”
  • “Do we need milk?”
  • “Are the clothes on rinse cycle?”

The company promises to offer these appliances in the next year or so.

A real firewall

Consumer Reports got a quick look at the Discovery iQ wall oven from Dacor, and it’s definitely turning up the heat on its less intelligent competitors. Dacor’s latest oven heats, broils and DJs with a few taps of the built-in Android screen.

With the Android-based display, budding chefs can quickly look up a recipe online or listen to their latest book on tape while they clean the dishes. The Dacor oven has its own app, available for iOS or Android devices, which lets users turn it on remotely, change the settings and get notified when their meal is ready.

If this all seems too overwhelming — or too costly — there are many other options. For example, the WeMo Smart Slow Cooker connects to your Android or iPhone so you can turn it on or off remotely, change the temperature and get notified when your meal is ready. It retails for just $99.99.

Connect your slow cooker to your iPhone or Android

Smartphones, smarter cooks

Like peanut butter and chocolate, the integration of computing and appliances is likely to prove mostly a good thing. Smartphones and tablets, data in the cloud and the Internet of Things will impact how we cook, what we eat, what groceries we buy and will no doubt improve the skills of many budding home cooks.

For example, recipe sites optimized for our tablet and smartphone screens have become increasingly popular.

Apps for every appetite

Last year, Allrecipes.com found that home cooks are “embracing digital technologies” to find, plan and prepare their meals. Some of their discoveries include:

  • Users want apps and appliances to help them create healthier meals.
  • More users are cooking at home than before.
  • Online recipe sites are the #1 resource for home cooks— much more so than cookbooks.
  • Apps and websites that include video instructions are rapidly growing in popularity, though still less than 25% of home cooks make use of them.
  • Peer-based ratings have become extremely important to home cooks, about 60% of which make use of recommendations from the crowd, and 42% tell Allrecipes that reviews from others have a lead role in getting them to try new recipes.

A balanced diet of nutrients and technology

Smart kitchens are not only about cooking, of course. They also affect our eating habits. Wearable devices, such as the Fitbit Force, already help us monitor how many miles we’ve walked and how many calories we’ve burned. Combine that with an intelligent refrigerator, and you have the makings of a full-fledged diet plan that would make Jenny Craig quiver in her spandex.

Large-scale appliances aren’t the only kitchen accoutrements getting a 21st century update. The HAPIfork is an electronic fork that uses embedded lights and vibrations to alert you when you’re eating too fast. Why should you care about your BPS (bites per second)? HAPIfork claims accelerated eating leads to poor digestion and overeating. To combat these dining infractions, the HAPIfork measures how much time you took to eat your meal, how many “fork servings” you ate per minute and and the time intervals between “fork servings.” The information is then uploaded via Bluetooth to an online dashboard for review and analysis.

Know your fork intervals

Not for you? Fair enough. But even skeptics can’t deny that eating and cooking are on the cusp of being radically impacted by the very same technologies we use at work, play, when we’re in our cars, running errands or waiting to pick up our children from school. What we eat, when we eat, how we eat, where we eat and who we eat with are all data points that can be codified, archived, analyzed and used to help us make better decisions, meals and social media posts. Just make sure your pictures are a little prettier than Martha Stewart’s.

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