Ok, all of you made a New Year’s resolution to track your food intake with that smartphone app, how’s that been going for you?
That’s what I thought.
The reality is the quantified self – where we use smartphones, wearables, and other tech to track our activity and what we consume – has one big problem: it takes a whole lot of work.
Some of that “quantifying” is easier than others; fitness trackers (when we wear them) can do a decent job of actually monitoring steps and how much we sleep, but what about those apps that are supposed to tell us what we have consumed? They usually require lots of manual entry and barcode scanning (good luck getting Grandma to give you the barcode for her famous apple pie).
Will it always be this way? Not if big tech, food brands, and device makers have anything to say about it.
Connected Food Devices To The Rescue (Maybe)
Today there are simple consumption trackers like Bluetooth enabled water bottles that give you very basic info like actual amount of water consumed, but in the future, there’s a good chance they’ll also tell you what’s in the drink and how many calories it is.
But the biggest leaps forward will come when the connected appliances in our kitchen know what they’re serving up and allow consumers to have that information. Over 99% of appliances installed in homes today are not connected; they’re essentially dumb, stand-alone islands of metal and plastic. That will change as more appliances add not only Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but also add in smarts that enable them to understand what food you’re putting inside them and – by extension – your body.
Some major advances are also coming in the area of image recognition and machine learning. While some of the early integrations of cameras in appliances like refrigerators have been clunky, the space race in machine learning and image recognition involving big tech firms like Google could result in huge leaps in intelligence for appliances to understand not only what type of food you are putting in them, but what to do with it.
A lot of the work is going on behind the scenes as food brands like Nestle develop digital backends to connect with appliances, both internal (Nespresso) and with partners to surface caloric and nutrition information of food consumed instantly and allow consumers to access through apps. While Perfect Company’s data platform is mainly used to track cocktail consumption, imagine if we had that level of detail when it comes to all of our food.
But Let’s Not Get Ahead of Ourselves
While all of this sounds promising, the smart kitchen still has a way to go to make the quantified self both easy and useful. If your smart fridge requires you to enter data about your food, you – and most consumers – are never going to put in the work.
Will smart kitchen be able to to make leap where, say, other food and activity trackers went wrong? Too soon to tell. While the Samsung Family Hub fridge offers some interesting tech that allows you to have a rough idea of food inventory, they don’t offer and significant advancements in nutrition tracking. Early attempts at food tracking using things like connected cups can tell you how much volume you’re drinking, but is that useful info?
The bottom line is quantifying what happens to your body and what goes in it takes lots of work, work that many of the advances happening in the smart kitchen could help eliminate.
We’re not quite there yet, but in a year or two that could change.