Welcome to ‘Kagoo Explains’ - a series of short articles de-mystifying some of the confusing terminology used to describe tech. Today we’re continuing our investigation into Smart Homes, looking at smart tech in the kitchen.
If you’ve read our Introduction to Smart Homes, you’ll know that smart-enabled devices & appliances have seen a massive boom in the last decade. There is now a wide selection of devices able to connect to the internet, ready to be automated and work together as part of a futuristic Smart Home! It’s no surprise that many of these innovations have been connected with cooking & laundry - so today we’re going to take a look at the various smart features available in the kitchen.
Smart Kitchen Features
Many of the smart features available on kitchen & laundry appliances focus on increased connectivity and app-integration, giving you ways to check up and interact with your kitchen without having to physically press a button. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular features:
Wi-Fi - Wi-Fi functionality allows your appliances to wirelessly connect to the internet and to other devices. This is the cornerstone of any modern smart device - having to plug a wire into the back of your fridge isn’t the most convenient thing!
Bluetooth - Bluetooth support offers short-range connectivity with other devices and your smartphone. This can be used for downloading new programs to appliances, as well as quickly checking the status of running programs.
Smartphone Companion Apps - Smartphone apps are a large part of a connected home. Many of the smart-enabled appliances we will highlight come with companion apps, which let you monitor the device, and gives you access to numerous additional features. These apps should work on most Android & Apple phones, though some (notably Samsung’s ‘Family Hub’ fridge-freezers’) require certain smartphones to work correctly.
Status Monitoring - Companion apps excel at providing an overview of how your appliances are working. Want to check how long the washing machine has left? The current temperature of your oven? Whether there are any problems with your fridge? Just check the app, no matter where you are. Or just kick back, and the apps will notify you if there is anything that needs tweaking or checking.
Remote Activation - Companion apps are also helpful for their ability to remotely trigger appliances, allowing you to turn on your washing machine or trigger the coffee maker from your phone. While this doesn’t mean you can abandon your kitchen altogether (you’ve still got to load your laundry into the machine or load up coffee beans), it provides a helpful utility when you’re out-and-about, or just for when you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to leave the sofa!
Video Streaming - This is a nifty extra - several high-end fridges and ovens come equipped with wi-fi cameras inside them, which can be accessed from the companion app. While admittedly niche, this functionality proves very helpful when you’re shopping, and want to check what’s inside your fridge. Just get out your phone and you’ll be able to view a live feed - no more second guessing whether you have any mayo left.
Smart Hub Integration - Smart Hubs work as a central controller of all smart devices in your home - therefore compatible kitchen appliances can benefit from numerous extra features, such as automation (triggering certain programs and features automatically) and voice control (using the hub to control kitchen functions).
Built-in technology - Larger kitchen appliances - specifically American fridge-freezers - have experimented with embedding full-blown tablets and displays into them. The idea is to turn your fridge into the centre of the kitchen - using the touchscreen to look up recipes and watch videos or listen to music while you cook. They are very expensive, but this tech has numerous advantages for your Smart Home. Not only can it function as a Smart Hub for devices, the touchscreen means it can run companion apps, and the heftier processing power allows for more powerful smart capabilities.
This last one is particularly interesting - this year both Samsung & LG announced AI-equipped smart fridges that can recognise the food inside them, and suggest recipes based on what you’ve got available! That’s pretty impressive stuff, right?
What appliances are smart-enabled?
Now let’s take a look at the kind of appliances that could be part of your high-tech smart kitchen, and the kind of smart features they could feature.
Fridges/Freezers - Smart technology has generally only been added to the largest fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers - smaller models remain as boxes that get cold. If you buy a smart fridge/freezer, expect companion apps that allow you to tweak the inside temperature & alert you to any problems. For the really expensive models, built-in technology such as touchscreen tablets and speakers turn your fridge into a multimedia center!
Ovens/Cookers/Microwaves - Smart ovens, cookers & microwaves benefit from companion apps that let you remotely start/stop cooking programs, and check how long your food has left. Expensive models may even have internal cameras to allow you to spy on your pie to make sure it’s not burning.
Dishwashers - Dishwashers with smart technology let you use a smartphone to check the time remaining on the current cycle, and remotely start the appliance running. A net connection allows them to download new programs and upgrades to make the machine more effective, while the companion app tracks everything about the dishwasher - noting the energy & water use, and giving suggestions to save money. It’ll even alert you when it’s running low on dishwashing tablets!
Washers/Dryers - For laundry, smart technology means you can use a companion app to check the status of your washer, dryer or washer-dryer - see how long is left on the cycle. You can also download new specialist cleaning programs to the machine, and use the app to store custom programs to save time. Also, since washers/dryers are prone to the occasional technical hitch, the companion app will alert you should any problems need fixing.
Coffee Makers - Smart coffee makers have some extremely helpful features: companion apps allow you to remotely start the machine brewing, and you can control everything from the strength of the coffee to the amount brewed. Smart hub integration allows you to automate your morning routine - your alarm can send a trigger to the coffee machine, meaning it’ll be ready to go as soon as you get up!
Bread Makers - Adding smart technology to your breadmaker allows you to remotely start/stop via a companion app, as well as check how long left on the baking cycle. Smart hub integration means you can automate your baking - load up the ingredients the night before, and let your smart home organise the perfect time to sync with your morning wake up.
Kettles & Toasters - Smart kettles are rare, but there are a few models around - they allow you to remotely start the kettle heating, which can be extremely helpful. And although it may seem unusual, people have added touchscreens to toasters and sensors that monitor the bread for optimal toasting every time!