Unless you’re living under a rock you’ve probably heard of “Internet of things” or “IoT.” It’s hard to find a tech article that doesn’t NOT reference it. And while seems like a passing trend, Internet-connected smart devices and IoT are already impacting many facets of daily life and will only grow. In the next few posts we will look at five specific areas that IoT is already and will continue to change your life.
IoT in Your Kitchen
I love to cook and spend a lot of time in the kitchen as it’s our main family entertaining area. So for me, it’s the first place to look at how life is being impacted by IoT-enabled devices along with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Let’s examine four appliances or areas of the kitchen are changing along with my view on how it could get even better!
Recently Samsung made a splash with the release of its new “Family Hub” smart refrigerator. The device can sync to your calendar, play music, access various Internet services, and the best feature, a camera to see what’s in the fridge. While this is available now, I still think it only scrapes the surface of what I’d expect in a real game changing smart connected fridge.
If we take some of the existing features of the fridge further, I would want to connect the camera with image recognition to identify what all is in my fridge and determine the amount remaining of each item. This data should be collected every day, which would allow the back-end services to determine common items I purchase and average consumption rates of each item. Adding pressure plates for the shelves would allow the fridge to determine utilization by weight of items with packaging that obscures the product. This data could then be shared to the cooking app to help identify recipes that could be made with items you already have. Imagine if data from your health apps such as “Fitbit” and “MyFitnessPal” was also sent to the fridge so that it could recommend meals based on your activity level for the day! This would help with meal planning and healthier eating.
The other area I see is with the calendar sync the fridge could identify products you might need for an upcoming gathering at your house or notify you of food allergies based on the invited guests, suggesting appropriate recipes. Eventually, I could even see sensors in the fridge to identify products that were going bad by capturing air samples and analyzing them.
Have you watched the video on the June Intelligent Oven? Now we have an oven that can identify the food you place into it, suggest cooking levels, and monitor the cooking process. It also has an app to push notifications to me when the food is done, monitoring data, the ability to save my foods online, and let me see live video. This should be provided to every college student living in an apartment! Not because they can’t cook, but for safety reasons. How many of us have put a frozen pizza in the oven after a long evening and “fell asleep” only to wake up to the smoke alarm and a very, very burnt pizza? Now my oven can monitor the pizza and turn itself off once it’s done so I have some nice breakfast pizza in the morning, rather than the rude alarm wake-up call!
Looking at the June, I think it’s a big leap forward, but honestly, I think it’s still further away than the fridge in making a compelling reason for me to purchase for $1,500. Let’s really connect this device, let’s feed the data from the foods you have made right into my fitness app to help me capture my food intake and help advise my waist. Connect to my digital cookbook to download prep and cooking data from the community and allow me to put my own pictures and cooking data into my personal recipes so I can share with friends and family. It also needs the ability to keep things cool. Imagine you put a one sheet meal (that’s a single cooking sheet with everything) of rosemary and thyme chicken, carrots, and potatoes into the oven before you leave for work. It knows you want to have the meal ready for dinner at the planned time of 6:30pm, so it automatically cools the cooking space to ensure the chicken stays at a safe temperature until cook time. From there the oven monitors your current geo-location data and calculates the cook time prompting you when the cooking starts and then automatically adjusting the temperature based on your location. Now you walk into your house to a great smell and fresh dinner. Next we just need it to clean the dishes!
Another feature of the smart kitchen is the personal assistant. Voice controlled assistants are already becoming more common. You can do basic tasks like set calendar/timer reminders, find recipes, search the Internet, and create shopping lists, making assistants ideal for meal planning. The Amazon Echo with Alexa is the first major breakout in this area, bringing a smart assistant to the kitchen. The idea of being able to “converse” with a device is very powerful. I recently purchased an Echo and it’s been interesting and intriguing the way my children have adapted to interfacing with “Alexa.” They already act as if Alexa is a real person and ask a lot of questions. Most people I know today use the Echo in their kitchen for basic tasks such as weather, cooking timers, music and note taking. Those are basic tasks, but looking at what’s being developed every day the services will grow fast. And of course as soon as I bought one Google announced Google Home, which looks very interesting. So now I’m torn between if I should get another Echo or wait for Google Home! But, the point is the same, both of these devices are creating a new experience in the kitchen.
Again, as we look forward I expect a lot more out of these devices as they connect to more data sources around my kitchen. Hooking the assistant into my geo-location, the family calendar, and my oven; the device should communicate back to my oven my expected arrival time and have it adjust the temperature automatically, alerting me of the adjustment. I also would personally love to see the device become my home planner. With a young family and attempting to grow my career, we have a lot on our plates. Taking the calendar model from the Samsung fridge I would like the kitchen assistant to curate all of the family events from the various data sources, post them to a digital family planner in the kitchen, and verbally notify everyone about upcoming items.
So I hinted at it with the personal assistants, but as I wrote that section I realized I got more and more excited about the thought of some sort of centralized planner. If your family is anything like mine, you’re running around non-stop with all sorts of things going on. Trying to sync up everything going on and then, due to my kids OCD, needing to easily make the schedule available to everyone is impossible. I see a huge opportunity for a device/service to sew multiple services together. I envision a touchscreen and a voice-enabled device that can bring everything of relevance to my family to a focus. The Samsung Fridge could build an amazing interface on the outside of the fridge to accomplish this. A centralized visual form of everything is key, it’s nice on our devices, but a single point of reference like our family bulletin board is what we need. It could have the weekly family calendar, kid’s chore list, a list of events nearby during the weekend, our meal planner, my honey-do list, and more. If someone focuses on this and could either build it into an existing device or create a low pricing point standalone option that is easy to setup it could be very interesting.
So that’s what’s happening in today’s IoT-enabled kitchen and where I think it could go. I’m sure there are 1000+ other items I have overlooked and would love to know your thoughts below. Look for my next post on another space of your home that is going to be impacted soon!