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    The internet of food: 5 smart kitchen devices to shake things up

    Geraldine Chua

    Breakfast was served at The Jetsons’ household via the Dial-a-Meal, a high tech gadget that produced food without much effort at all. While we are not quite at that stage yet, our kitchens are the latest members of the ‘Internet of Things’ – a network of physical objects embedded with electronics, sensors and software to provide greater value and service for users.

    Seen most frequently in the Smart Home (which will possibly be boosted as the national broadband network or NBN is rolled out), smart kitchens feature appliances that are connected to each other and our devices, and encompass everything from a touchscreen cooktop that allows soup recipes and boiling pots to be placed side-by-side, to a fridge that can track inventory and the freshness of food.

    FutureHAUS, a Virginia Tech Centre for Design Research project, recently revealed its ideal future kitchen at the Kitchen and Bathroom Industry Show 2015 in Las Vegas.

    Dubbed "the internet of things kitchen", the room is created as a pre-fab cartridge offsite as a standalone component and comes complete with devices that all send and receive information, Domain reports. Some features include a pantry that alerts you when you’re close to running out of necessities using integrated weight sensors, dishwashers that dispense detergent automatically, and high-definition touch screens embedded in the splashback of the kitchen.

    A report released by NextMarket Insights in 2014 surveyed over 500 households in the US, and found that 24 per cent of respondents already used a tablet or smartphone “all the time” when in the kitchen. Another 34 per cent indicated they used those devices “sometimes”.

    “Appliance and device makers are integrating smart features at both the high and low end of the device spectrum," said Michael Wolf, chief analyst with NextMarket Insights.

    “We see significant investment in putting smart features in big ticket items such as refrigerators and ranges by major manufacturers, as well as strong interest in creating new lines of smaller, more discretionary purchase lines of smart kitchen products such as smart thermometers and scales.

    “Whether it's food storage, preparation, or the act of cooking itself, the arrival of new technologies will enable consumers to become more efficient, knowledgeable and possibly even better cooks in coming years.”

    Here are five smart kitchen products and ideas that could take off in the coming years, particularly if they resonate with consumers:

    LG Smart ThinQ Refrigerator

    The Smart ThinQ fridge features a touch screen display that tells you what food it holds, when expiration dates are approaching, and suggests recipes from The Food Channel based on ingredients users already have. It also allows a shopping list to be quickly compiled, with the information transferred onto your smart phone. This is complemented by the Smart Access refrigerator app, which also tells you the internal temperatures of the fridge, and whether it is in energy-saving mode.

    While LG does not seem to offer the same product closer to home, it does have a Smart Diagnosis  feature with its Smart ranges, whereby the fridge can “speak for itself” using either a smartphone app, or by calling the LG customer information centre for solutions that could save time and money.

    Smart Diagnosis

    Smarter Wi-Fi Coffee Machine

    Who doesn’t like the smell of coffee in the mornings? Smarter, the creators of the iKettle which allows you to boil water at a specific temperature, recently announced their new, internationally available Wi-Fi coffee machine that makes you coffee at the touch of a button.

    The machine will grind fresh beans or use pre-ground beans with the percolator, and brew you up to 12 cups at once when you wake up, arrive home, or whenever you command it to via its smartphone or tablet app. The app allows users to keep a cup warm for up to 40 minutes, and you can adjust strength and taste preferences to your liking.

    Available for Android and iOS, the coffee machine is scheduled to hit stores in March and costs about £100 (almost $200).

    Images: Daily Mail

    Whirlpool Touchscreen Stove-top

    Image: Tech On Show

    Appliance company Whirlpool, which has an office in Victoria, demonstrated the use of an interactive, voice-controlled touchscreen cooktop that can display recipes, Twitter and Facebook updates, news and the weather, at CES 2014, a global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow.

    The cooking surface, which pulls information from a smartphone or tablet, uses induction to heat pots. The induction heating elements only interact with metals, and only heat the cooking counter.

    While the demo just a mock-up, the USA firm reportedly envisions a large and thin tablet-like device or mat that you can place on any surface, and said that the technology could be developed in just five years.

    Meanwhile, Whirlpool’s Australian arm offers the 6th SENSE oven, which uses 6th SENSE technology to take care of the cooking process, from monitoring energy output, to adjusting cooking time and giving users an audible warning when it is time to stir or turn a dish. Allowing three separate dishes to be cooked at the same time without their flavours or aromas mixing, the oven does not require pre-heating, meaning up to 20 per cent less energy is needed.

    Philips HomeCooker Next Prototype

    Philips announced a prototype of a countertop cooking device that can roast, steam and sauté, enhanced by a tablet app that lets people find recipes and see how to prepare ingredients, before the cooker downloads the proper instructions.

    The home cooker will know how to prepare a dish by “intelligently stirring, changing the temperature and managing the right amount of [cooking] time,” said Pieter Nova, executive vice-president of Philips’ consumer lifestyle division said at IFA 2013. All users have to do is add the necessary ingredients, and leave it to the AutoStir technology to prevent burning and ensure thorough cooking.

    Samsung’s Smart Series Refrigerator

    Samsung announced an update to their smart fridge in 2014 with a four-door model with built-in Wi-Fi and an integrated LCD touchscreen. The touchscreen allows users to leave notes for the family, schedule an event in the calendar, check the weather or Associated Press news, or keep track of the groceries available in the fridge. It also offers a wide database of recipes on Epicurus and streamed music via Pandora.

    Compatible with Samsung smartphones, including the Galaxy S5 and Note 3, users can make calls from the fridge. The new fridge also boasts a ‘kitchen TV’ feature, CNET reports, so that owners of connected TVs capable of transmitting to external devices won’t have to miss their favourite shows whilst cooking in the kitchen.

    Image: Popsugar

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