Is it fair to say we’re all collectively exhausted from CES news? The first few weeks of the year are just a deluge of tech press releases about all the things manufacturers plan to do, make, ship, partner with and promulgate during the rest of the year. And even though CES has yet to carve out a specific floor area for food and kitchen related tech items, we definitely saw an uptick in announcements in this emerging space.
We saw smart kitchen products and integrations from larger companies and startups alike across the connected home, appliances and wearables – here’s the rundown.
Alexa, has the smart kitchen arrived? (And have you seen Google?)
It seems no one is sick of Amazon Echo quite yet and we saw even more manufacturers outside of the traditional smart home adding Alexa integration to their product lines. The biggest announcement came from Whirlpool, who made a splash last year with Amazon Dash integration at the show and this year adds voice functionality to its Wi-Fi connected ovens, fridges and washing machines. Alexa, is my laundry done?
And now, if you own a Ford with the Sync 3 platform, you can ask Alexa to preheat the oven from your car.
LG announced a competitor to the Samsung Family Hub with its own smart fridge (more on that later) – with a gigantic touch screen that looks like you might need a step stool to reach the top of, the appliance also integrates with Amazon Echo. Alexa, can you reach that icon for me?
Speaking of Samsung – the upped the ante this year with Family Hub 2.0, adding a bunch of new service integrations (GrubHub and Spotify, to name a few) but not much else. And LG jumped in the smart fridge game with giant touchscreen game with new Smart InstaView Model, boasting much of the same features as the Family Hub, including voice integration, cameras to see what’s inside your fridge when you’re away (or too lazy to open the door) and software to help run your house. LG’s model also has grocery ordering but theirs is Amazon-powered.
Google Home, the Echo’s main competitor, was announced in a few integrations. Conversation Actions, their equivalent to Alexa’s Skills, hasn’t shown us much that is kitchen or food related (with the exception of a Dominos pizza ordering action) as of yet, so Alexa is still your main sous chef for the kitchen. For now.
For their part, Whirlpool had a host of announcements around their “Smart Kitchen Suite”, including their first step into guided cooking. Their assisted cooking will guide users through three step recipes that will send instructions to the oven and program it for the cook. They also introduced “scan-to-cook” which will allow the user to scan barcodes to “send the right directions, temperature and cooking time settings straight to the appliance.”
The smart bar gets customized….and sees more competition
PicoBrew showed off its now-shipping Pico unit at CES and announced that it will offer customized PicoPaks, the pods used to make different types of beer with the device. Previously, PicoPaks were premade by the company’s professional brewers, making it more of a do-it-for-me experience. Now, you can create your own beer selecting flavors and ingredients on the platform with some guidance from the pros.
The area of smart beverages is one we’ve kept our eye on for a while, with device makers and beverage companies all vying for a piece of the pie. But The Spoon’s Allen Weiner found an interesting story NOT at CES, writing, “while companies such as Picobrew and Whirlpool’s Vessi were showcasing their high-tech methods for brewing beer at CES, two giants of the beverage industry confirmed a partnership.” Turns out that AB InBev, the world’s largest beer brewer and the makers of Keurig are teaming up to create a home-brewing system designed to deliver homemade beer and cocktails. Will it do for cocktails what the Keurig did for coffee? We’ll see.
Food waste prevention goes mainstream
The prevention of food waste has been an area I’ve been fascinated with for a while – especially as it relates to technology’s potential to really change our bad habits and help us stop bludgeoning our environment with trash. But so far, most of the solutions are niche or designed for commercial use. But -CES saw the introduction of some smart solutions that might actually change things.
First, there’s the Zera Food Recyler from Whirlpool – which is basically a fancy name for a tech-savvy composter that can live in your kitchen and turn food scraps into fertilizer with very little involvement from you. Composting is a cool idea, and the earth-friendly concept of it appeals to this generation of more health-conscious, organic-buying consumers, but is generally not pursued by the vast majority of us. Whirlpool smartly saw this as a way to use technology and create a one-button solution to this. Zera is on Indiegogo now for a little under $1k (fully funded and still taking backers as of this posting) and expected in stores later this year.
Also pretty cool – the GeniCan, a smart device you place on your trash can that scans items as you toss them in the bin and creates a grocery list from which you can reorder. You can also set it up to connect to Amazon Echo and have it automatically reorder items for you (from Amazon, of course). This might not prevent food waste in the traditional way, but it could stop you from ordering too much food and help you be more accurate with the stuff you need. If you scan everything you throw away first.
The robots are here, and they’re going to teach you how to cook
Robots at CES are not a new thing. For years, companies have been using them – sometimes in the form of product announcements, sometimes just as booth eye candy to lure traffic in – to make a splash. This year, the name of the robot game was giving arms and legs to Alexa – and making her dance, apparently.
But one appliance maker decided to create its own smart robotic assistant for the kitchen, bypassing the popular “put Alexa behind everything” trend. Bosch launched its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-connected appliances last year and this year introduced Mykie (my kitchen elf, shortened) which is basically an Amazon Echo voice device with a small touchscreen that helps you out in the kitchen. Need a recipe? Want to know what’s in the fridge? Want to listen to some music? Mykie’s got you covered. It seems odd that Bosch would want to compete with Amazon in this category, but Mykie does do some cool stuff that the Echo doesn’t, including project images onto a wall via the tiny projector in its rear, allowing you to blow up a recipe video you’re following. Mykie also offers virtual social cooking classes so you can learn to cook with an actual human instructor and the AI assistant. Is it enough to compete with the Echo? Time will tell.
Cooking tech heats up
Drop adds a second appliance manufacturer to its roster – announcing its recipe platform can now control GE Wi-Fi appliances (it announced Bosch integration in September last year.)
Panasonic showed off an entire smart kitchen with technology like a smart wine fridge with different temps for each shelf and a cool display, inductive heating built into countertops and tables to discretely heat and keep food warm and a machine learning / camera combo that lets appliances react to and adjust cooking based on the recipe you’re trying to follow.
The Smart Kitchen Show hits the CES floor
The Spoon’s Mike Wolf hit the CES floor in search of interesting conversations on food tech and smart kitchen – check out The Smart Kitchen Show’s newest podcasts.
Hear from the CEO of nutrition and food delivery startup Habit about their offerings and how they’re building the next generation of personalized nutrition.
Mike caught up with AppKettle’s founder Robert Hill to talk US shipping dates and what’s behind the company’s initial delay to bring the product to market.
Mike and I catch up on all that we saw at CES in our CES smart kitchen wrap-up.
Over the next few weeks we’ll continue to analyze what we saw in smart kitchen and future of food at CES. Stay tuned! If you want to get all our analysis in your inbox, make sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.