CHICAGO — I see the future, and the future is now.
That was the message of Kevin Henry, president of Group42, an industry think tank of designers and thought leaders based in Los Angeles, CA. Henry presented his design ideas during his “The Connected Kitchen” seminar at KBIS 2010, held recently in Chicago.
He explained: “The ‘Connected Kitchen’ is more real today than ever before. At the present, through your iPhone, you can check your home security through your security camera feeds, as well as lock and unlock doors. You can also turn on lighting throughout the home and raise and lower blinds and curtains.”
Henry also pointed out that many smart homes are quite eco-friendly, as they allow clients to monitor their energy consumption, therefore promoting energy efficiency through the use of less water and control of natural light.
“Eventually, the kitchen itself will become one huge, computerized appliance that reads lifestyle patterns, anticipates needs for food, lighting, entertainment and cleanup, and performs automatically – all without an explicit human command,” he predicted.
For generations the kitchen has served as the heart of the home and, as Henry described it, has now evolved into something much more: The pulse of the home. After all, it is not only a place to connect family members, or homeowners with their dinner guests, but also a space where busy clients with busy lifestyles stay connected to their personal and professional needs in an intuitive, technological way.
“The kitchen will continue to be the heart, if not the hub, of the modern home – an essential element in our daily lives that touches and affects us both physically and emotionally, a place where we seek communion, rejuvenation and sanctuary. Tomorrow’s kitchen will continue to provide us with a unique outlet for creation and self-expression,” he offered.
To that end, Henry predicted that networked appliances will be the next big thing to hit the kitchen, with “wi-fi” technology slowly creeping into home electronics.
“It will only be a matter of time before our kitchen becomes the central core to all home activities,” he concluded.
Home Smart Home
Indeed, the concept of a ‘smart home’ has evolved over time, he pointed out.
“[In the past], the idea was that the home could be operated by a remote system, much like operating your TV with a hand-held remote. That could include controlling temperature, lighting or music, for instance, throughout the house from a wall monitor located in every room,” he explained.
“Today with the introduction of home networking, security interfacing and wi-fi, we have – for the first time – a truly intelligent environment with an ever-growing intelligence quotient,” he said.
He concluded: “As the amount of controllable fittings and connected appliances in the home begins to increase, then the ability of these machines to interconnect and communicate with each other becomes a useful and desirable reality. The ability to control or monitor signals from appliances, fittings or basic services is the foundation of the connected home.”
So, why does Henry believe that the kitchen promotes a connected design so well?
“Shortly, your kitchen will read your personal electro-magnetic field when you enter the room and begin to brew your favorite beverage and update your portfolio – all while you wait for your bagel to be toasted. In fact, the next wave of microwaves will have a scanner to read the package of chili or popcorn and then preset itself for operation,” he said.
In fact, he added that appliances that think and plan out menus, re-order and re-stock “are already on assembly lines.” Specifically, he noted that, with Internet and cell phone technology, wi-fi enabled refrigerators will update a family’s personal calendars from its central calendar on the refrigerator, or replenish pre-programmed grocery items through an online grocery service.
A prototype for an iBoard – or Smart Board – has already been developed in the U.S. that automatically identifies the signature of food products, features an integrated digital scale and an embedded wi-fi that connects the board to an online food database, offering the opportunity to obtain nutritional information, for instance. “The board can connect to online recipe databases or even a social network of other culinary enthusiasts,” he added.
Henry also noted that wireless technology, once developed to its full potential, will seamlessly allow the user “to place any future portable household appliance – such as a toaster, blender, coffee maker or can-opener – anywhere in the kitchen you would like to work without the need for a power cord, plug or socket.”
He concluded: “One of the other greatest benefits of this new technology will be safety, mainly with the near elimination of electric shock. In fact, gone will be the days of socket guards and curious hands. Just think of the fun you’ll have of giving your clients the opportunity to make their margaritas poolside without the need for a plug!”