The New Intelligence
As the American home becomes increasingly automated, new technology has led to the growth of a host of 'smart products' that make the kitchen not just the heart of the home, but the brain, as well.
By Janice Anne Costa
All of which helps to explain why technology is suddenly the hottest issue around, with the new "intelligent products" taking the kitchen and the home by storm.
In fact, the home technology market totals some $15 billion, according to John Galante, publisher of TecHome Builder magazine. And, Galante notes, this number is growing some 9% annually, with more than 4,000 manufacturers of products covering everything from home entertainment and networking to control technology for lighting, climate, security and appliances.
Whole-home automation is becoming more than just a science fiction fantasy, and the kitchen, always viewed as the heart of the home, is now beginning to take charge as the home's intelligence center, as well. Mirroring the trend toward open home layouts where everything is connected, today's hottest high-tech products are connecting the home and its inhabitants in ways that go far beyond just physical space.
Another product that captured interest at the pavilion was the Storlogic Systems' Viz-etouch, a showroom point-of-sales device that allows consumers to pick a kitchen style, find product, receive a price breakdown and get financing options before heading to a designer.
Also a big hit at the K/BIS Techno-Color pavilion, the new 20/20 Design 6.0 version software program allows designers to create printouts of their customers' dream kitchen within 20 minutes, with on-screen displays so realistic, doors can even be opened to reveal shelves.
On the show floor, LG Electronics showed its smarts with the Living Network System: a wired, home network-based system that links such appliances as the internet, microwave oven and washer to one another via the internet refrigerator, thus allowing for communication among appliances. The Internet refrigerator not only chills food, it also acts as a TV, radio, Web Appliance, videophone, bulletin board, calendar and digital camera.
For those who like something a bit less high-tech looking, the new Amana Messenger Refrigerator looks like your friendly, neighborhood refrigerator but with a twist. While it does everything you'd expect from your refrigerator, it also features a built-in voice memo function that not only allows users to record and receive messages at the touch of a button, it also alerts users to a variety of refrigerator functions, i.e. letting users know when it's time to change the water or air filter, pointing out when the refrigerator door has been accidentally left open, or announcing how long a power outage has lasted, so users don't have to guess whether food is safe to eat.
Intelligence is also becoming more prevalent in food preparation. To that end, Whirlpool Corp.'s Polara refrigerated range enables users to prepare meals up to one day ahead of time as well as warm and cool food without being home.
Likewise, Sharp's high-speed oven is pre-programmed to automatically cook different 200 foods and recipes while dramatically reducing cooking time.
In addition, products like KitchenAid's Briva in-sink dishwasher
with FlashDry technology, Bosch electric cooktop with mTwisT,
Broan-NuTone's wall-mounted chimney hood, DCS 30" five-burner gas
range, Sub-Zero glass door refrigerator, Samsung microwave oven
that doubles as a camera, and Fisher & Paykel Aerotech oven and
DishDraw dishwashing system were among the high-tech products
showing their smarts at the recent K/BIS.
Driving the "smart products" trend are several key factors, according to Alpharetta, GA-based George Ide, Smart House Digital Interiors, Inc., who spoke about Home Automation Trends at the recent K/BIS. Ide, who is on the board of directors for the Tech Home Division of the Consumer Electronics Association (formerly called the Home Automation and Networking Association), points to several changes in the American lifestyle that are adding fuel to the growing interest in technology and home automation.