We recently attended the Smart Kitchen Summit, which brought together leaders in the category—all in conversations about the kitchen, food and the potential of technology to simplify lives, reduce waste, and help people make better decisions about what they cook and eat. The summit, created by industry commentator Michael Wolf, in one year’s time has grown to a standing room only affair for designers, CEOs, major appliance brands and up-and-coming startups. Here are the recurring messages and themes from this year’s gathering:
THE KITCHEN IS NATURAL PLACE FOR CONNECTIVITY.
First, and foremost, the kitchen is the center for real life connectivity. It’s a place where we all belong—where food, cooking and people interconnect. There was a lot of talk about the “4G Kitchen”—not in terms of 4G tech, rather, a kitchen that accommodates four generations of people. A 4G kitchen should embrace young families to empty nesters, and youthful chefs to grandparents—with multi-generations that enjoy cooking, and talking about cooking, more than past generations.
KITCHEN APPLIANCES SHOULD NOT BE CONNECTED FOR THE SAKE OF CONNECTIVITY.
It goes without saying that connectivity shouldn’t be ‘bolted on’ as just the latest gimmick. As with every other room in the home, we always counsel manufacturers to ask: ‘What value does connectivity deliver to the user?’ Arrayent focuses a big chunk of its Evolution IoT business transformation workshops on this very subject.
Still, right now the industry’s biggest challenge is driving awareness of the value of connected products and meeting consumer expectations. Consumers expect smart products to be really smart. So strengthening the consumer value proposition to be ‘absolutely compelling’ is essential.
Some of the real problems technology can solve in the kitchen are in the realm of cooking assistance:
KNOWING YOUR CUSTOMER IS ESSENTIAL FOR SUCCESS.
Just as in real life, you can’t design a one-size-fits-all kitchen for everyone. When designing smart kitchen products they must address a diverse set of people’s needs. However, there are some general assumptions about this market that are axiomatic, such as affluent consumers being early adopters because they have the money and the motivation to spend. It has nothing to do with age. But more importantly, the spectrum of needs also includes psychographic profiles, ranging from those who love to cook, to those who don’t want to cook, and people who want to but can’t cook.
Insights from Campbell’s Soup Test Kitchen were particularly interesting. Campbell’s has identified six distinct cooking segments that it uses as a beacon to drive recipe/product creation:
THE NEW MINDSET IS APPLIANCES THAT IMPROVE THEMSELVES OVER TIME.
A lot of discussion is taking place about changing the industry mindset from: “once a product has been shipped it depreciates and becomes a customer service cost center” to “in the future, products will improve over time through software upgrades or the addition of other services.” This is the approach of Tesla Motors who makes improvements to their connected cars through software and services upgrades, adding more value to the cars over time, not less as when all other cars are driven off the lot. By collecting and analyzing customer data and learning the features people use, manufacturers can learn the best ways to add value through in-field upgrades to enable new solutions for users. This approach to ‘future-proofing’ is one of the promises of IoT that most consumer products companies are still wrapping their heads around.
APPLIANCES THAT WORK TOGETHER CAN CREATE BETTER SOLUTIONS & EXPERIENCES.
Appliances that work together—or interoperate—is ‘the next big thing.’ How nice would it be if your oven or cooktop knew what was in the ’fridge, so it could recommend what to cook—using up fresh ingredients to make life easier? That’s just one example of new cooking experiences made possible by the smart kitchen. But how do you create interoperable solutions when most homes don’t have the same brand of appliance? While one of the Smart Kitchen Summit panels explored the future possibility of a ‘Kitchen OS’ for everyone to build upon, history has proven that standards are difficult to impossible to create—especially between strident competitors.
At Arrayent, the approach we have taken is to enable manufacturers to easily tap into other major ecosystems through our EcoAdaptor service which provides an easily configurable framework for device interoperability. One currently available example of different brand products working together to help keep the smart kitchen smelling great is Procter & Gamble’s Febreze Home plug-in air freshener and Nest. P&G used Arrayent’s EcoAdaptor for Nest to tap into functionality provided by the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke and CO detectors. Learn more about that in our ‘Works With Nest’ announcement.
These are but a few thoughts that were stimulated at the 2016 Smart Kitchen Summit about where the worlds of food, cooking and technology are headed. We walked away being hungry for what the future of the Smart Kitchen will bring.