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Smart Kitchen and Bath Appliances

Is now the time for the CI channel to participate in this market?

In the latest issue of CEDIA Communicates, Giles Sutton (CEDIA’s interim CEO) and Ian Bryant (senior director of strategic partnerships) along with BSH’s Sheldon Lam (digital partnerships manager) and the trade publication CEPro recently performed a survey to find out how many integrators were specifying smart appliances in the kitchen. The response was that only 3 percent included some kind of smart kitchen device in their projects. However, 44 percent see their companies specifying smart appliances at some point in the future, and 80 percent of custom integrators want to learn more about the potential for smart appliances.

For more than two decades we’ve been hearing about the coming of smart kitchen appliances. As custom electronic integrators and integration experts of all things related to residential networking, does it makes sense that we should now pay attention to the smart kitchen appliance space and how it might impact our business?

Also by Gordon van Zuiden: Technology Solutions for Healthy Living at Home

To help us better understand where we are today with smart kitchen appliances it helps to review the history of this product category. Back in 2001, cyberManor was involved in the Internet Home Alliance with Cisco when they were promoting the “connected home.” One of the key elements of the connected home was the connected kitchen. This paragraph from Bill Bodin, at that time the CTO of the Internet Home Alliance, wrote in a column entitled “Technology to Suit Our Lifestyle”:

“We see connectivity in kitchen appliances, things that are now devices that are converging on multiple different protocols. A perfect example is Whirlpool’s Polara range, which now uses convection air technology, oven technology, and cooling technology in a transactional framework. Traditionally if you prepared a meal the night before it went in the fridge and when you wanted to start cooking, you needed to be home from work to do so. But with the Polara, that entire transaction becomes seamless. You input the cooking instructions with a web-enabled device and see every step right up front: you tell it when you need it and it keeps it cool until it starts the cooking process; you won’t need to disrupt your workday.”

This smart oven prototype from Polara never made it to market, but the concept of the smart oven was very real. Controlling it from a web-enabled device like a computer was not very practical, however, and internet connectivity in the home was still in its infancy. Fast forward to today where wired and wireless broadband connectivity is widely available and web-based control is now performed from almost any mobile device, phone, or even web-enabled automobile screens (such as those from Tesla). As a result, we’ve seen a wide range of smart kitchen product offerings from most of the major residential consumer electronic brands, including Samsung, Bosch/Thermador, LG, Sub-Zero/Wolf, and General Electric.

So is now the right time for the custom integrator to get involved in the smart kitchen and bath appliance market?

At cyberManor we believe the answer is yes, and we’ve dedicated the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry areas of our new Smart Home Experience Center to showcase the latest smart products from Bosch/Thermador and Kohler. One of the primary reasons we built our new showroom was to help us better understand the usage model of these connected appliances to determine their real value to our clients. For more than five months we’ve rented our Experience Center to Airbnb guests and have asked them about the value of the smart appliances during their stay. We have a Wi-Fi connected coffee maker, oven, range hood, dishwasher, shower, and washer/dryer in the home, and, of all these smart appliances, the number-one ranked appliance was the built-in Wi-Fi connected coffee maker from Thermador.

Kitchen and Bath – Thermador Coffee Maker
The Thermador Coffee Machine.

I call the Thermador HomeConnect Coffee Maker the “Sonos” of intelligent coffee makers. Thermador delivers unique coffee recipes to the kitchen from ten built-in coffee recipes and dozens of additional recipes from CoffeeWorld, a cloud-based free service that delivers additional custom coffee recipes from around the world. And, just as Sonos lets you create music playlists of your favorite songs, the Thermador coffee maker lets you create a coffee playlist of your favorite coffees so they can automatically be made one after the other at your next party. Sonos is integrated into our Control4 system, as is the Thermador coffee machine, which is integrated into our Control4 system with a driver written by ChowMain. The Sonos music system can be controlled by Josh or Alexa, and the Thermador coffee machine can be controlled by voice. Sonos provides remote diagnostics of their music system for more accurate troubleshooting, and the Thermador coffee machine does the same.

Kitchen and Bath – Control4 Controlling Thermador
The Control4 interface for the Thermador Coffee Machine.

Jayleen, one of our recent AirB&B guests from Canada, said the following:

“I’ve travelled to a number of AirB&B’s for remote work during this Covid-19 pandemic and I’ve never found a feature in a home more appealing to me than the Thermador Wi-Fi connected coffee machine. Having a freshly brewed cup of coffee each morning from coffee recipes around the world has been the perfect way to start each work day!”

I consider the Thermador Coffee Machine the ideal Trojan horse to establish a client’s interest in internet-connected kitchen and bath products. The value of freshly brewed coffee, from recipes from around the world, initiated with a voice or touchscreen command is quickly understood and widely appreciated. After that tasty experience, it is far easier to establish the value of connected ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, showers, and laundry room appliances to our clients.

To the 80 percent of custom integrators that want to learn more about the potential of smart appliances for your business, I suggest that your first investment should be with a smart coffee machine such as the one from Thermador to learn first-hand the benefits of internet connectivity and control of this appliance. If nothing else, you and your staff will enjoy the best home-brewed cup of coffee you’ve ever had!