The kitchen is the hub of the home – the tech hub, that is. Manufacturers know that making appliances that are more intuitive and connected will give them the edge in a highly competitive market with the continued growth of home automation. To help you create the ultimate kitchen space, here’s everything you need to know about smart kitchen design.
“The major appliance makers all focus their research and development spend on delivering new functions you need in appliances before you even realise you need them,” says Gary Brown, senior brand manager, home appliances for Harvey Norman. “It’s a race to improve the end result for you, the user, whether that be creating an oven that will never burn your roast or a dishwasher that understands what temperature water to use.”
The changes in kitchen technology are being driven by the arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT), which simply refers to everyday household devices that can collect and share data through the internet. Whether you’re across it or not, IoT is here. Emerging-technology consultancy Telsyte reports that in 2018, the average Australian home had 17.1 connected devices in 2018, up from 13.7 in 2017. Telsyte forecasts this number to grow to 37 by 2022.
The arrival of smart speakers such as Google Home, Amazon Echo and the Apple HomePod changed the game. These devices are only in their infancy but they provide a fascinating glimpse into the possibilities of IoT for homeowners.
It’s all very well to have your smart speaker turn off a light or switch on Netflix when you tell it to, but this technology will come into its own only when it intuitively knows you’ll be home at 6.15pm and would like low lights, airconditioning on and the blinds down.
While the developers busily create the ‘middleware’ that will make IoT devices talk to each other and become truly useful, there’s already a raft of exciting technological breakthroughs in kitchen appliances – and a few more on the horizon.
Samsung Family Hub SRF630BFH2 fridge.
Samsung Family Hub SRF630BFH2 fridge.
a date with your fridge
It’s fair to say that Samsung currently leads the pack in connected kitchen appliances. Its Family Hub refrigerator essentially has a computer and screen built into its door and cameras on its inside. What this means is you can text your fridge to say you’re running late and it’ll pop an alert note up on the screen, you can play music, stream TV shows on it, and display an electronic calendar that syncs to the phones of everyone in your household.
Cameras inside the fridge mean that you can check if you’re out of milk while you walk through the dairy aisle at the supermarket, and the built-in recipe app that will display on the screen steps you through anything you could dream of cooking – and updates menu shopping lists.
You can order groceries using the Woolworths shopping app and, perhaps most intriguingly, your fridge can help you date. Yes, you read that right. The thinking is that people who like the same sorts of foods might just be a good match in life. Samsung’s Refrigerdating app works by taking a photograph of your fridge’s insides.
Refrigerdating will then ‘match’ you with people who have similar-looking fridges. You can then swipe right or left based on how the contents of someone else’s fridge appear to you. Romance is not dead.
Electrolux’s FlexiBridge range includes an induction cooktop.
Electrolux’s FlexiBridge range includes an induction cooktop.
Introduction to induction
Induction cooktops aren’t new but their functionality has advanced hugely. Electrolux’s FlexiBridge function gives you complete cooking freedom when you’re preparing multiple dishes or cooking with large pots. When activated, this function lets you choose between three different modes that accommodate cookware of different shapes and sizes, with the Max Bridge mode combining all four zones to create one enormous cooking area.
Love the farmhouse look but prefer to cook with induction? Belling has you covered with its range-style cookers now featuring an induction cooktop. AGA, too, has just released its new 3 Series collection of cookers, which have a two-zone induction hob complete with bridging feature.
At last year’s KBIS trade fair in the US, American manufacturer Hestan showcased full-size induction cooktops that actually communicate with Bluetooth-equipped pots and pans to maintain temperatures at precisely the degree you specify.
LG’s fridge with InstaView technology means you can check what’s inside without opening the door – just by tapping twice.
Seeing is believing
Another cool innovation comes from LG, which has developed InstaView technology that allows you to look inside your refrigerator without letting the cold air out by tapping twice on the door’s glass panel. The mirrored glass looks just like the outside of the fridge – until you knock twice and it becomes a clear door so you can see what’s inside.
The fridge is also equipped with LG’s proprietary SmartThinQ technology, meaning you can remotely control it from your smartphone, adjust fridge settings and diagnose appliance problems.
Flexibility is extremely desirable in a fridge. Manufacturers have realised this, with Samsung building a FlexZone drawer into its Family Hub fridges. It allows you to transform this drawer from a fridge to a freezer, or vice versa, at the touch of a button.
Panasonic’s PrimeFresh fridge also features a convertible case that can be set to -3˚C to softly freeze raw meat and seafood (extending its life, flavour and nutrients and making it easy to cut it without defrosting) or at 0˚C to chill highly perishable items (such as dairy and meat) and prevent them from spoiling prematurely.
Liebherr’s BioFresh technology also addresses the fact that food stays in its optimum state when it’s stored at just above 0°C – a temperature most conventional refrigerators cannot achieve and evenly maintain. The individual BioFresh compartments can be set to allow the humidity in each to be regulated via a sliding scale, depending on what’s being stored (fruit, for example, likes humidity while cheese does not).
[Bosch’s](https://www.bosch.com.au/|target=”_blank”|rel=”nofollow”) Series 8 oven automatically sets the best heat level, temperature and time.
Bosch’s Series 8 oven automatically sets the best heat level, temperature and time.
The latest ovens come with a secret weapon: built-in sensors make it virtually impossible to cook a bad meal. Bosch’s Series 8 ovens include sensor-controlled cooking programs, with the company’s Bosch Assist technology automatically setting the optimal type of heat, temperature and time for a huge number of dishes.
Likewise, Miele has recognised that meat is more tender and bread more delicious with the application of steam during the cooking process. The company’s Moisture Plus technology ensures a burst of steam is automatically applied when you’re using certain cooking functions, or you can add a shot of steam manually.
Kenwood’s kCook Multi Smart food processor has an app with hundreds of recipes that work in harmony with the mixer.
It’s not just the big fixtures that are getting smarter: your smaller benchtop appliances are too. Kenwood’s kCook Multi Smart is controlled through the Kenwood World app, where there are hundreds of recipes designed to work with the multi-cooker’s pre-set functions.
The Vitamix Ascent Series has wireless connectivity and a self-detect function that reads the size of the container you are using and adjusts the blending time to suit. The app-connected NutriBullet Balance will weigh the ingredients for your smoothie or soup and give you a breakdown of the calories and nutritional content.
Like your coffee served high-tech? Nespresso’s VertuoPlus has an extraction system to brew coffee with a perfect crema, plus it utilises barcode technology to automatically read cup size, temperature and flow rate. The De’Longhi Primadonna Elite is an app-connected model that allows you to make personalised coffee recipes on your smartphone.
The GE Kitchen Hub rangehood includes a smart screen equipped with voice and gesture commands.
hob talks to ’hood
Sometimes you’re so deep into preparation, you don’t realise you should have turned on the rangehood 20 minutes ago. Well, with AEG’s Hob2hood technology, your cooktop will wirelessly activate and adjust your rangehood fan speed automatically, based on what you’re cooking. Likewise, Samsung’s latest Chef Collection range features a Bluetooth-enabled rangehood that automatically turns on the fan and adjusts its speed based on the heat emanating from the cook surface.
Keep an eye out, too, for GE’s new Kitchen Hub. It sits on the outside of its (functioning) rangehood and takes the form of a 27-inch smart touchscreen that serves as the home’s ‘central control centre’, allowing the cook to search the internet, create shopping lists, access recipes and check who’s at the front door. It’s still a prototype so it probably won’t arrive on our shores for a while.
innovative and interactive
Way back in 2017, at the US tech-trade show CES, Whirlpool unveiled its prototype interactive kitchen, where the splashback is more than a mere surface. It’s effectively a screen that can read the barcode of anything you place on your bench and suggest recipes you could make with it (which will then be displayed on the splashback).
It will preheat your oven or cooktop accordingly, alert you when to stir and let you know when your meal is perfectly cooked. Synced with your phone’s calendar, it will tell you the school bus is arriving in five minutes, scan the contents of your fridge and suggest you might pack those strawberries and the leftover macaroni cheese in your child’s lunchbox.
This kind of functionality represents the next level of connectivity in the kitchen because it allows manufacturers to provide customers with value-added services around the products they have sold and to suggest other things they might also like to buy. Will this tech be with us soon? Watch this space.
AEG’s new range of dishwashers come with ergonomic ComfortLift technology.
wishes for dishes
If your pet peeve is bending over your dishwasher’s door to reach plates, AEG has the solution. Its ComfortLift technology allows you to slide the lower basket out and lift it up for ergonomic unpacking. It is truly a game changer.
Using tea towels to dry plastics even after a cycle is finished? Forget it. Electrolux’s intuitive AirDry technology automatically opens the door 10cm towards the end of the cycle, to release moisture and ensure everything is dry – even lunchboxes. And Miele’s integrated dishwashers will politely open when you knock on them.