At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas (January 2020), appliance manufacturers showed off their company’s futuristic kitchen innovations. The big manufacturers -- Samsung, LG Electronics, GE Appliances, Whirlpool and Bosch – displayed products that demonstrated they are developing smart appliances that will reinvent the kitchen around the internet.
Based on the new products they displayed, it’s pretty obvious their target audience is Millennials and Gen Z consumers, the demographic who is comfortable using smartphone apps, who want step-by-step cooking instructions delivered to them digitally, who consider themselves “foodies” even if they’re not very good at cooking.
What's New in Smart Appliances?
Some of the newest smart kitchen technology appliances include:
- Robotic arms that chop veggies on the countertop
- Artificial Intelligence-powered oven cameras and internet-connected meat thermometers that monitor what’s cooking
- Stove top cameras that can take pics of your culinary creations and and post them on Instagram
- Smart refrigerators that accepts your dietary preferences via a smart phone app, then puts together a menu plan. It will send a shopping list to your phone when it detects via built-in cameras that you’re low on the recommended ingredients. Or that your yogurt is about to expire.
What Have the Big Appliance Manufacturers Come Up With Now?
GE Appliances has added a third A.I.-powered oven camera in its Kitchen Hub system. The Kitchen Hub system includes a 27” touch screen for going online to interact with friends and family or tuning into Netflix or Spotify. The computer will make sure your dinner doesn’t burn while you’re watching a movie.
Bosch has partnered with a startup company called Chefling to send recipe instructions to its appliances, such as refrigerators that have interior cameras to keep track of what’s inside. Bosch is one of several companies (Samsung, LG and GE Café) using computer vision inside their fridges to recognize items and how long they’ve been in there and when they might need replaced.
Whirlpool showed its Yummly smart thermometer that can, for example, be put inside a raw chicken. Your phone will get an alert when the thermometer reaches the correct temperature. Eventually the $129 thermometer will be able to follow recipes on the Yummly app and automatically adjust the temperature of Whirlpool’s smart ovens.
Samsung’s entry into the connected kitchen category is an A.I. kitchen that can help plan meals and monitor nutrition. The company also has a robotic kitchen helper – Bot Chef, a mechanical arm that can act as a mechanical sous chef. It chops, stirs, measures, makes coffee by putting the pod in the Nespresso, and otherwise help prepare food. Don’t expect to see this at Home Depot any time soon.
Is All This Smart Kitchen Technology Good?
As with all internet-connected home devices, some of them raise privacy and security concerns. They record audio and video as they listen for your commands and watch from your stovetop or inside the fridge. Hackers could spy inside homes if the apps or devices have security flaws, as many do.
But even if appliance manufacturers are able to address those risks, some experts say they’re still focusing too much on what’s possible and not on the improvements that consumers might actually want. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it, right?
An industry expert has said: “They (appliance manufacturers) are not thinking in terms of outcomes, which are meals. They need to shift their thinking from delivering a stove with lots of technological innovations to giving people the cooking experience they really want to have.”
Maybe appliance manufacturers should take a lesson from the Instant Pot and air fryers. They didn’t exist five years ago, now they are mainstream. None of the smart appliance features have taken off with consumers as much as simpler kitchen products that don’t need an internet connection.
Selling the Client on Smart Appliances | Your Role as Kitchen Designer
You know you should know about smart appliances. Your clients are starting to ask you about including tech in their new kitchens, and you want to make informed recommendations.
Smart appliances seem to be here to stay. You need to know what’s available and how you can integrate these futuristic innovations into your kitchen designs.
Bringing Technology into Your Kitchen Designs
The first thing is you need to get educated. Reach out to the experts and pick their brains. Learn the foundational elements of technology, smart appliances and internet connectivity from them. Let them know you might need to call on their expertise again, depending on what your clients are asking for.
You don’t have to become an expert. You only need enough information to have an intelligent conversation with clients. Then, if they want to go further than your knowledge extends, bring in your expert to discuss specifics.
The salesmen at your go-to appliance store get training from the manufacturers; they’re a great resource. You can take your clients to the appliance store where they can get demos as well as information.
And your clients won’t be the only ones who will be learning. It’s an opportunity for you, as well.
Beyond your local appliance store sales reps, a great place to learn about smart appliances and what they can do is the annual KBIS show where you get to talk to the appliance manufacturers who exhibit there. They are more than willing to show you everything; that’s why they’re there.
They Don't Know What They Don't Know
As a designer, you always want to give your clients what’s best for their new kitchens. Remember, they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s your job to introduce them to and explain all the options available to them.
To start the process, proceed as always. Conduct your usual first meeting with the clients where you gather information about their lifestyle and what they want from a new kitchen. Here’s your chance to determine more than what style of cabinets they like and what type of countertops they want.
Get them to talk about their lifestyle, how they use their kitchen now and why they want a new kitchen. From your discussions, you can determine if they have a problem technology can solve. As you create a space based on their personalities, lifestyle and preferences, you can recommend technology that will enhance and improve their lives.
Plan Right from the Beginning
The specifications for technology should be established early in the planning process. You want to bring in experts to ensure processes are completed correctly.
During the planning phase, present your clients with various options and help them determine where they want to spend their money. Prioritize what’s important while helping them to gain an understanding of the smart tech available to them.
The more informed you are, the better you can present clients with sound recommendations.
Not all consumers are interested in these tech-y features. But when a client comes to you and asks about smart appliances, such as a fridge that monitors the expiration date of the milk or an oven that can be controlled from their smart phone, you need to have some basic information to keep them interested. Here’s the perfect opportunity to show off your knowledge and gain their trust.
And if you develop a sincere interest in or even enthusiasm for what internet connectivity can do for the kitchen and you stay current with the latest and greatest, then you can simplify technology for your clients and help them get over their “technophobia”.
We wrote and published an article about smart appliances more than two years ago that contains links to internet-connected products for the kitchen.
Dovetail Marketing is a full-service rep agency whose goal is to match kitchen and bath designers and remodelers with the cabinet manufacturers best suited to their business’ style and clientele. Owner Bob Aungst III represents Brighton Cabinetry, US Cabinet Depot, Presidential Series from Legacy Cabinets, Holiday Kitchens and StyleCraft.