Is the future of housewares in the Internet of Things? Are our kitchen appliances going to talk to one another, making cooking and food shopping hands-off and worry-free? Twenty-five million American households own at least one smart home device, and 50 percent of households intend to buy a smart home device in the next 12 months, according to a study by market research firm Parks Associates. The 2018 International Home and Housewares Show seemed to be betting on this trend. Banners everywhere proclaimed “It’s Smart!” and a plethora of new products were on display at the show’s Smart Home Pavilion.
That said, some of these products were not so new, such as the Thermomix, an all-purpose chopping, mixing, and cooking appliance that’s a staple of European kitchens but has long struggled to gain a foothold in America. Others, such as the Behmor Connected Brew System or the Hestan Cue guided cooking system, where a cooktop and pans control temperatures while an app walks you through recipes, have been on the market for a year or more. And a handful of new smart products took their first steps at the show, from indoor garden systems and a kitchen fire prevention gadget to a high-end water bottle and a custom chai brewer.
As these and other products launch, each with its own operating system, one of the biggest concerns is that our phones will be bursting with a million separate apps, rendering the workings of a smart home not so smart. Various industry groups are striving to create a common language of connectedness to help make using smart products more seamless while improving communication between, say, a smart coffee maker and your shopping list to reorder coffee automatically. In the future of the smart kitchen, your smart fridge will also know if your carton of milk is getting near its expiration date and will be able to suggest dinner recipes based on what’s inside—not to mention preheat your oven at the correct time. Many new smart products can be operated at least in a basic way using Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, and most experts predict that voice commands will replace apps.
Here are 10 smart product highlights from the show:
1. The Hidrate Spark 2.0 Smart Water Bottle reminds you to drink water by lighting up. Its app lets you set and monitor your hydration goals and can be connected to other wellness products such as Fitbit and your smart watch.
2. The Bibo Barmaid is like a Keurig for cocktails. It uses a code on each of its proprietary cocktail ingredient pouches to pour the corresponding amount of water and make the perfectly mixed drink every time.
3. The Aspara Smart Veggie Grower, Ava Byte, and SproutsIO garden use sensors, lights, and self-watering systems to help you grow produce indoors year-round while allowing you to monitor progress from your phone.
4. PantryChic is a “smart” Bluetooth-connected dry-goods storage and dispensing system that promises to maintain the freshness of flour, sugar, and other ingredients and dispense exact amounts at the push of a button, mess-free. Recipes are available via the app.
5. If you love chai and want to brew an authentic version of this blend of tea, spices, and warm, frothy milk, Chime automates the time-consuming process with a machine that looks like a coffee maker. The company provides capsules of India-sourced tea and spices; you add the milk or milk substitute of your choice, set your brew preferences, and push a button, or choose a recipe and operate the system through the app on your phone.
6. For coffee lovers, the handsomely designed, sleek Stagg Pour-Over System from Fellow Products vows to make heating, weighing, and pouring the perfect cup much smarter.
7. On the heels of the original Thermomix, Gourmia and All-Clad are introducing their own smart versions of the all-purpose appliance. All-Clad’s Prep & Cook promises to replace a slew of appliances. Gourmia’s all-in-one cooker is available in Europe but may make the leap to this country. In the meantime, the Gourmia WiFi Air Fryer, Multifunction Rotisserie Grill and Electric Oven does quite a bit of multitasking and uses wifi to do it.
8. iCuisine keeps the smart technology in a stick the size of a flash drive, making its brains interchangeable: You insert it into a range of bright, toy-like plastic utensils and small appliances for guided cooking on its app.
9. TasteTro Spice System is a spice storage, blending, and dispensing device. It holds 20 spices plus salt and offers 50 programmed spice blends with recipes. It uses Bluetooth and radio-frequency identification (RFID) to work on its own or with a smart appliance.
10. The Innohome Stove Guard is a palm-size device you stick above your stove. It monitors the conditions that predict the outbreak of a cooking fire and shuts off power to the appliance. A simpler Stove Alarm also uses this “self-learning technology,” which, in the words of the manufacturer, “learns its sensitivity based on the user’s cooking habits, ensuring accurate hazard recognition and uninterrupted cooking.”
What are your thoughts on the future of cooking and smart kitchens? Tweet me @lisamcmanus with your questions and comments, or just a hello!