Connect your tech! These devices will help transform your kitchen into a smarthome
Fans of the Iron Man movie franchise already have some idea what a smart home might be like, an AI supercomputer with a range of sensors, connectivity and remote controls that let you control everything in your home. Others may have also seen the movie, Smart House, about a child who builds a smart home but then encounters problems when it develops a life of its own. We are not in either of these potentially dystopian futures yet, but ‘connected everything’ is catching on fast, with smart sensors inside all sorts of domestic devices, including the kitchen. The idea of processors inside your food processor may be the last thing on your mind, but as the first 1925 Electrolux refrigerator showed, technology is never far behind food preparation. So, what is happening in the world of food and kitchen automation?
INSIDE THE SMARTHOME
A smarthome is one in which all your electronic items can communicate together over one network, which you are able to control from wherever you may be. This means everything from your fridge to your thermostat, your front door lock and electricity meter are all connected, communicate together, and can be controlled using your voice, smartphone, or even Apple watch.
SAFE AS HOUSES
Unfortunately, the downside of the connected age is every device that is online can potentially be hacked. Having confidence that your smart home remains as ‘safe as houses’ is critical. However, this was rocked when ‘white hat hacker’ (an ethical computer hacker, or a computer security expert), Jmaxxz, explained how to undermine the security of a connected lock last summer. While the vulnerability was fixed, its existence illustrates that connected convenience comes at the cost of constant vigilance. A Hewlett Packard Fortify security report last year warned that many of the first wave of connected solutions on the market had poor security protections. This is now improving as Apple and others develop ‘tech ecosystems’ where devices must demonstrate better security protections.
BATTLE OF THE GIANTS
Apple leads the industry in creating solutions that enable a connected home while encouraging privacy with its ‘Works With Apple HomeKit’ brand. When you see this you know manufacturers have had to meet Apple’s high standard of privacy, security and encryption. When choosing smarthome devices make sure they support your existing smarthome control systems and they can exist on the same networks. This is important because the last thing you really want is to be switching between different apps, control systems and networking types to keep everything working together correctly. That would defeat the point! All of these home automation solutions mean little without some kind of device to control them, and we are seeing increased competition here. Apple is expected to introduce its own voiceactivated HomeKit control system, while Amazon Echo and Google Home are two similar solutions that let you control gadgets in your home using simple voice commands.
WHAT IS COOKING?
Long-term kitchen innovator, Electrolux, is serious about the connected home. It recently demonstrated connected ovens running Google’s smarthome OS, Brillo, which lets you cook and check food remotely with your phone. Samsung is not far behind. It recently introduced a range of smart cooking appliances, including smartphone controlled ovens, gas, electric, and induction hobs and a range hob. The company already offers a huge four-door ‘Family Hub’ smartphone controlled fridge. Samsung says you can use these connected kitchen solutions using only your voice and a smartphone.
Smarthome solutions are not solely the province of upwardly mobile gadget obsessives. Insurers are just as interested in these devices as they are in fitness trackers. US insurer, American Family (amfam.com), has a 600 square foot model home, complete with furniture, in which it is testing connected devices and now, along with other insurance firms, is offering reductions in insurance premiums – so long as you install approved connected smart devices in your home. However, this is simply not just because insurers believe these devices reduce risk, it is also because they hope to access new troves of data about their clients. Perhaps, in future, your health insurer will watch what you eat as you take it from your fridge and charge you extra if you eat too many bacon sandwiches…
TEFAL ACTIFY SMART XL
We all know you should avoid it but if you get the urge to deep-fry something you may as well make sure it is ‘smart’ deep fried. That is what you get with this Bluetooth-connected deep fat fryer, which fries to order, following over 200 provided recipes beamed from your iPhone or iPad. You do not need to worry about temperature or when to stir your food as the app tells you everything!
CORAVIN MODEL 2 EXTRACTOR
For centuries, the cork has had to be removed in order to enjoy a glass of wine, but no longer. The Coravin Model Two is their most intuitive wine system yet, giving you the freedom to pour and enjoy a glass of wine from any bottle and feel confident that your wine will be protected until the next glass is poured. This device protects your wine from oxidation using inert argon gas – extracting wine while leaving the cork in place and the bottle sealed.
You probably did not see this one coming: Pantelligent is a smart frying pan that integrates a temperature sensor, so it can let you know when it reaches the optimum temperature to cook your chosen meat, and even offers up reminders of when to flip the contents and more. Controlled by an app on your smartphone, this is a must-have if you want to cook the perfect steak.
HIKU SHOPPING LIST
Soon to hit the shelves in the UK, this magnetic device attaches to your fridge for convenience, scans barcodes and recognises your voice – creating a shared shopping list on your phone so you always know what you need. It works with the developer’s own shopping list app on your smartphone and can also be hooked up to online shopping services from Amazon and Walmart. This integration means you can create your shopping list bit-by-bit and then order the whole thing at the touch of a button.
AGA TOTAL CONTOL
That ubiquitous cornerstone of the countryside, the AGA, has arrived in the 21st century. The iTotal Control is the first smart AGA and boasts three ovens (baking, simmering, and roasting), each one of which can be controlled remotely using a Mac, PC, smartphone, or tablet, or using the touch-screen on the oven itself. The app lets you monitor oven temperature, turn things on and off, and you can even control your cooking remotely by text message.
ISOMMELIER SMART DECANTER
A must-have for serious wine lovers, the iSommelier Smart Decanter does not just hold your wine, it also aerates it with purified oxygen in order to improve the flavour by softening the tannins in your reds. The smart base shows you the name of the wine, its vintage and tannin count, while the smartphone app allows you to get new information, updates and control your decanter.
Also soon to land in the UK is the world’s first smartphone-controlled slow cooker. Using a WeMo, iOS or Android smartphone app you can adjust settings and temperature, change cooking time, receive reminders, calculate cooking times and calculate the status of your dish so a perfectly slow-cooked meal is prepared for when you arrive home.