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BLOG:What is a Smart Kitchen?

What is a Smart Kitchen?

As smart home technology becomes more commonly adopted, it’s easy to incorrectly assume that the smart kitchen is simply a part of that ecosystem—another room in the larger smart home. It’s more than that.

One area in the consumer space that’s getting a lot of attention these days is the concept of the “smart kitchen.” Since connected home technology is becoming so popular, one might automatically assume this has something to do with the smart home. It can. But the smart kitchen is more than just a room in a smart home. It’s about smarter design. It’s about smarter food sourcing, storage, and preparation. It comprises design, technology, innovation, and disruptive thinking, and ultimately it’s about applying these factors to create a better environment and experience for the entire household.

Just as with connected home tech, we’re starting to see a maturing of technology as it’s applied to food prep and the kitchen. Whereas companies eager to jump into the space of connected kitchen products not so long ago may have offered countertop appliances that required an app to function, we’re now starting to see companies offer products that join your network and communicate with services that add value for consumers.

Major appliance manufacturers are bringing products that can alert you when something’s awry—say a temperature or water level threshold has been breached. Others are tying into your grid to delay wash cycles until later in the day when energy demand (and thus rating) is lower.

For years, we’ve heard about the “smart fridge” that “knows” what’s in it, including how full every container is and when food items expire. This concept has kind of become the mock poster child for this space. It’s not that it’s a ridiculous idea. In fact, we might be able to make a notable dent in the astonishing level of household food waste with products like this.

But before now, the technology available to deliver such a product would have resulted in an untenable customer experience. The early envisioned smart fridge required bar scanning and logging everything going in and out of the fridge. Do you see that happening in the average household? No. Never.

Today sensors, imaging, intelligent processing, and data services exist and can actually identify the broccoli you bought at the time of purchase, log when you put it into the refrigerator and then recommend meal plans that include the produce you’re storing before it spoils. This adds value and creates a better experience for consumers without introducing extra burden, and we’re starting to see companies heading in this direction. We’re seeing companies build out or create partnerships to deliver the information and services in a way that adds value and improves the experience. And we’re seeing appliance manufacturers identify useful ways of integrating these services to augment their products.

Imagine if a few sensors could replace the arbitrary toaster timers Henry Desroches references in his post about kitchen UX. Instead of toasting by number, you could brown your bread to a preferred golden shade. That adds value; that improves the experience.

At Universal Mind, we’re always looking at the world around us through an ‘experience’ lens, and the kitchen is one area that’s ripe for improvement. We’re excited about the opportunities in this space, and you’ll be hearing more from us about it.

Our Director of Client Experience, Richard Gunther is speaking at the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle again this year, October 5 – 6. Richard is moderating a pre-conference workshop on Wednesday, SELL: Retail Strategies in the Era of the Connected Kitchen, where industry veterans will share their experiences getting their products into market. Additionally, he’ll be hosting a fireside chat, From Farm to Glass: Building a Smart Kitchen Ecosystem from the Ground Up, with Juicero founder and CEO Doug Evans on Thursday, October 6.

The full lineup from the summit is available here.