BY ELIZABETH CHERIAN
DIRECTOR, INNOVATION GROUP, JWT INTELLIGENCE
Some might remember the 2000 sci-fi film The 6th Day. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously instructs his refrigerator to order more milk when it informs him that the milk had expired. While at the time this convenience might have seemed preposterous, today smart products like this are quickly filling our homes.
Insights firm Gartner suggests that the average household could be equipped with more than 500 smart devices by 2022. Samsung has recently launched one such device called the Family Hub Refrigerator. Wifi-enabled with a touchscreen door, this Internet of Things phenomenon makes The 6th Day milk moment a reality, carrying a price tag of $5,600. One need not be surprised, then, that PwC predicts that the connected home market (home automation devices and home energy management systems) could be worth almost $150 billion by 2020. There is a raft of smart kitchen appliances that run the gamut from the sleek and simple to the unwieldy and mildly terrifying.
One good-looking example already on the market is a homeware product range developed by consumer tech start-up Quirky called Poppy. Its beautifully designed coffee machine, infant formula mixer and pet feeder include smart sensors connected to the Amazon Dash Replenishment Service, which automatically orders coffee beans, baby formula or pet food respectively when supplies are running low. Amazon has added a portfolio of brands to its Dash service, including German water-filter company Brita and home appliance manufacturers Whirlpool and GE, among others.
Due to launch at the end of this year, The Genie is a “food replicator” from Israeli R&D company White Innovation. Inspired by the the Star Trek Enterprise, the compact countertop device cooks in 30 seconds your choice of all-natural, freeze-dried food pods via mobile app navigation. The creators are working on a future model that will allow the device to learn from your taste preferences and dietary needs to deliver wholly personalised meals. Machine learning like this is the next frontier of the smart kitchen. The technology helps form the backbone of artificial intelligence (AI), which is turbo charging the entire connected home market.
AI is defined as the process by which machines perform tasks that typically require human intelligence or skills, like recognising coffee beans are running low and ordering a replacement bag (to use an earlier example). These kind of conveniences are very attractive to a lot of consumers. Research recently published by J. Walter Thompson called Control Shift found that nearly half (49%) of global respondents would be happy to give over decision making to an expert or automated system in certain situations.
While AI is more than 50 years old, it’s not been able to effectively deliver on expectation until recently when there’s been an acceleration in its development due to falling costs in processing and data storage, as well as advances in computational power. According to the Economist, companies spent $8.5 billion on deals in the AI space in 2015, a fourfold increase in five years. Massive corporations are banking on AI finally delivering on its promise of intelligent machines, and deliver on the growing consumer demand for automated solutions.
Smart AI innovation
One 2016 product launch putting AI to the test is the Teforia tea infuser. Sophisticated in design, the clever machine coordinates with an app that customises brewing characteristics like water temperature, caffeine and antioxidant levels. Armed with a machine learning algorithm, it also tracks the user’s taste preferences and adjusts its technique accordingly to make a perfectly tailored cup of loose-leaf tea.
Coined the world’s first intelligent plate, SmartPlate can identify, weigh and analyse everything you eat, relying on advanced object recognition technology. Appealing to the Quantified Self movement, the aim of its Philadelphia-based creators is to enable people to better understand their eating habits and pursue a healthier lifestyle. The product ships later this year.
The June Intelligent Oven calls itself a “computer that cooks”. It’s outfitted with a multitude of sensors that sync up with an app, allowing the user to not only check in on cooking progress, but also access recommendations to optimise technique. Developed by Apple employees and due to ship throughout the US for the 2016 holidays, June not only gets to know your cooking style, but also that of every one of its users. As a result, it harnesses everything it learns from the entire June community to offer more recipes and better instruction, a bit like being mentored by a professional chef with years of experience.
Few would challenge the appeal of a resident chef. The creators of Moley are banking on this with their 2017 product launch. As the world’s first robotic kitchen, Moley promises to transport your favourite chef into the intimate space of your own home. A combination of highly sophisticated hardware and software, the large kitchen unit integrates robotic arms that are programmed to execute cooking techniques and recipes, having learned from the best master chefs.
Like the Ikea Concept Kitchen 2025, which envisions new behaviour powered by AI, Moley proposes a future where the connected home is a fully integrated system humming with AI that empowers us to optimises our lives. The process of selecting and preparing one’s food is increasingly being delegated to machines that are able to think and shop for themselves. These innovations are freeing up time, delivering personalisation, and helping people lead healthier lives.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020