Digital Design Takes Center Stage at 2007 K/BIS

As the kitchen gets greener and cleaner, the kitchen is becoming more digital than ever before. This could be seen in the wide range of products on display at the 2007 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference (K/BIS) in Las Vegas equipped with high-tech or "smart" features that turned the kitchen into the digital control center of the home, including energy-efficient, function-packed appliance suites controlled by intuitive LED touch screens, kitchen and bath cabinetry with soft-close and one-touch-open features, hands-free faucets, feature-rich plumbing fixtures and high-tech lighting systems. Many of these high-tech gadgets and appliances were found in the Digital Entertainment Kitchen presented in the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) Industry Trends Marketplace. It included such seamlessly integrated digital components as a HP TouchSmart PC on a lazy Susan located on the main island and a centralpark-connected refrigerator from Whirlpool Corp. that allows users to dock CE-based devices such as digital picture frames, satellite radios, MP3 players, DVD systems, tablet computers and more. The display also brought to life the results of the Digital Kitchen Study, a cross-industry collaboration involving leading members of the CABA Internet Home Alliance Research Council including Whirlpool Corp., Bell Canada, Cisco Systems, Inc., Direct Energy, HP, HomeCrest Cabinetry, Intel Corp., Microsoft, the NKBA and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Together, they form a network of companies dedicated to advancing the home technology market. The Council’s study, conducted by Zanthus, a research and consulting firm, was intended to determine the consumer electronics and appliances already in use in American kitchens and what new products or services homeowners would like to add to their kitchens in the future. The study was based on a survey that reached 602 homeowners between the ages of 25 and 64 who have broadband Internet access and household incomes of more than $35,000 per year. The survey results suggest that most consumers are looking for functionality and control from their kitchens, rather than entertainment. But while most respondents showed little interest in watching movies or playing video games in the kitchen, they do still want a TV there. The study found that 33% of homeowners currently watch TV in the kitchen, 43% want to watch TV in their ideal kitchen and 51% of respondents planning to remodel their kitchens in 2007 intend to include a TV. As a result of the survey, Blue Arnold, CKD, CBD of Kitchens by Request, Inc. in Jarrettsville, MD, designed the “ideal†digital kitchen that featured the following innovations: Digital Calendar. The survey found that the primary kitchen user is also the primary schedule keeper, and a digital calendar was the most preferred concept of the 22 concepts tested. Those surveyed reported wanting a calendar on a large screen that allows users to add appointments and post notes that everyone in the household can see and access, whether from the kitchen or via the Internet. Recipe Projection System. Eight in 10 of those surveyed said they cook for enjoyment, and 64% do so at least several times per week. Consumers reported wanting a wireless recipe projection system that would allow them to look up a recipe online, or even say aloud what they want to cook, and then have the recipe projected onto a surface in the kitchen from a small, cabinet-mounted device. Energy Usage Monitoring and Control System. Those surveyed reported wanting to monitor energy consumption by area (family room, swimming pool, etc.) and appliance (hot water heater, etc.); to monitor energy usage by circuit; to chart peak energy usage times; to diagnose areas of wasted energy; and to calculate energy costs. This concept was most popular in the West where California recently became the first state in the nation to impose an emissions cap on utilities, refineries and factories. Home Control Station. Consumers want a home control station in their kitchen that allows them to manage their HVAC and security systems easily. Specifically, they requested a screen where they can view the temperature inside and outside of their home, adjust the thermostat on a touch pad and view live video of both the front and back of their house. This functionality was equally appealing to households with and without children. Universal Charging Station. Consumers reported wanting to charge up to three cell phones or PDAs simultaneously, regardless of brand or model. One-third of households reported that they currently keep their cell phones on the kitchen counter, and one-half said they keep their phone chargers there, too. Consumers would like a universal charging station so everyone can charge their phones in the spot where their phones and chargers are usually kept. Wireless Internet Access. Consumers reported wanting to have a wireless network in their home so they can have wireless Internet access in all rooms, including the kitchen. Twenty-nine percent of all homeowners and 43% of those remodeling their homes want to surf the Web while in the kitchen. Consumers reported wanting Internet access for e-mailing and Web surfing and don’t want to use a PC in the kitchen for offline applications. Wired Internet access is not desired; just 5% of homeowners said they wanted wired Internet access in their kitchen. Arnold further interpreted the results to mean that consumers want technology to be accessible, but not the focal point of their rooms. Thus, she placed the cabinetry in shadow boxes with the technology nested within it. There are touch screens for control, and the computer on the lazy Susan can be easily accessed by family members from both sides of the island. Look for more information about this in the upcoming 6/07 issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News. And log onto Live Events, and Consumer Resources. (Be sure to log onto for Kitchen & Bath Design News’ coverage of the 2007 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference (K/BIS) in Las Vegas. Log onto the home page to visit the Live Events, Top Headlines, Project Spotlight and Consumer Resources sections, and Product Gallery. And don’t forget to sign up for our eNewsletters that will cover other upcoming industry shows.)    The Digital Entertainment Kitchen included such “smart†gadgets and appliances as an HP TouchSmart PC on a lazy Susan located on the main island, a centralpark-connected refrigerator from Whirlpool Corp.