Smart kitchen? No, not that we are transforming into a software development company that specializes in kitchen technologies, but we wanted to share the second in row blog post on how smart things around us can get, an by a coincidence, this is again something in the kitchen after the last blog post on smart fridge; on the courtesy of the Guardian.
Kitchens seem the perfect place for gadgetry: look at the catalogues for home stores, there’s specific devices for everything from slicing pineapple to magnetic toast tongs. Clearly, cooks and bakers are keen for ways to make the work easier and improve their creations.
And there’s a new crop of gadgets made for them. Can’t be bothered to fiddle with the knobs on your oven? There’s an app for that. Bad at measuring ingredients? The Drop scale uses an iPad or iPhone to get it just right. Think your chopping board is too dumb? The GKilo can weigh what you’ve chopped. Can’t get that bacon quite right? The Pantelligent has built in sensors to make sure the temperature is perfect.
The Pantelligent can help you cook the perfect steak Photograph: The Guardian
Such startups argue it’s time for the most technical part of the home to get gadgets, but can they go from the joke of smart fridges to a viable connected market using smart pans and app-connected scales?
Tech has reached many areas of our lives, but not the kitchen, said Stefano Marangoni, the founder of Thingk, which makes the GKilo. “A couple of years ago, we understood that the home appliances market was not involved in the cultural revolution that, thanks to Steve Jobs, changed the hi-tech world,” he said. “So, we started to work to propose on this market segment high quality materials, very good design and an essential, modern user interface, using several types of detectors (touch, gesture etc).”
The company’s first gadgets are smart chopping boards and timers, because they’re common tools in most homes, he said. To make devices that work in kitchens, developers can’t simply slap sensors and Bluetooth onto cooking tools, Marangoni said. “In our homes we want beautiful devices, made of natural materials, we don’t want plastics and other cold and cheap materials,” he said. “Moreover, people want technology that simplifies their lives, especially in environments like the kitchen, where the interaction with devices is difficult, because often we have no free hands when we are preparing a recipe, or during a lunch.”
A smart chopping board called the GKilo Photograph: The Guardian
Jack Phelan, chief operating officer of Drop, said it was clear a lot of people used their iPads in the kitchen. “People were starting to slowly move to follow recipes on the web rather than from the text books,” he said. “That got us thinking that the kitchen is really an undeserved space in the home, in terms of technology. It’s probably the most technical space in the house in one way, but it’s frozen back around the 1960s or 70s, when basically any new appliance was really just a reconfiguration of some form of heating element or motor. You’ve got countless ways to heat things and grill things and juice things, but really, that’s kind of where the innovation sort of stops.”
Phelan and the company’s co-founders looked at the kitchen, and realized scales aren’t as well used in the US as on these shores. However, they’ve started to become more prominent as posh cafes started to weigh beans, helping encourage people to do the same at home.
The Drop scale helps you accurately measure ingredients, and can convert measurements and scale recipes if you only have a bit of what you need – and all of that work is done in the app, not the hardware. Indeed, Phelan says the real space for innovation is in the software, where the company created a new recipe format that interacts with the scales and can work with other smart appliances, perhaps letting you know that your oven is preheated to the right degree.
The idea isn’t to revolutionize cooking, but to make it a bit easier, and thereby encourage more people to do it. “If I’m tired and there’s little barrier between deciding to go and flop and watch TV, and maybe go in and make food. This has just maybe made that decision a little easier, and I can go in and make a great dish, being more confident in how it’s going to turn out,” Phelan said. “It’s really about serving people’s lifestyle and enabling them where possible.”
Of course, appliances have been connected, too – smart fridges do exist, as do ovens with apps. Miele’s SuperVision oven acts as a hub for all your appliances, so you can see how long until the washing machine is done without stepping out of the kitchen, said company spokesman Michael Prempert.
If you do leave the kitchen, an app on your smartphone will notify when the roast in the oven needs to be turned and even when dinner will be ready. That’s how it is now. For the future, Miele is trialling IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence – the one that beat humans at game show Jeopardy – to create recipes, and testing the use of Microsoft’s cloud to deliver recipes. “Instead of having to leaf through cookery books to find a recipe and then to search out the matching automatic program or even make settings manually, the recipe together with the relevant preparation stages is now sent to my tablet or smartphone via the Microsoft Azure cloud,” Prempert said. “The matching automatic program is downloaded to the oven and started at the touch of a button without the need to search.”
That all may sound like overkill to get the perfect roast dinner, but Miele intends its efforts to extend beyond cooking aides. Under its “KogniHome” research, Miele and academics are looking for ways to help elderly and disabled people “lead a self-determined life,” Prempert said. “One scenario: before leaving your home you find an electronic message on your mirror in the hall reminding you that the weather is bad and that you should wear weatherproofed clothes,” he said. “A second message could be: please check if you have switched off your oven – still dreams of the future but we are working on it.”
Check out the video below to see an example of what can technology do for you in your smart kitchen.