Susan Serra, President of Susan Serra Associates, Inc. and founder of Scandinavian Made, is a certified kitchen designer, E-design consultant, award winning designer, kitchen and bath industry brand consultant, speaker on kitchen design and indefatigable observer of product and behavioral trends in the kitchen. Follow Susan at @susanserrackd and @scandinavianmade.
Technology is rapidly changing how we work (and live) in the kitchen in 2018. Today’s kitchen allows for adulting with ease, geeking out among cool appliances and it’s ideal for a new brand of cook: the “gourmet hacker”, one who has no more excuses for: 1) can’t cook 2) takes too long, and 3) too much clean up. Kitchen appliances in 2018 focus on wellness, tech, and mind-blowing gourmet efficiencies. Here are the top takeaways for navigating the tech-centric kitchen in 2018.
VOICE CONTROL TECHNOLOGY
Voice control technology in the kitchen starts with Alexa and Google Assistant integration. Amazon sold tens of millions (truth!) Alexa units just over the 2017 holidays. Over 50% of these units will end up in the kitchen and Alexa is quickly changing how we work and live in the kitchen. Appliance brands are racing to integrate Alexa into its appliances we seen at the recent CES and KBIS shows this January.
We’re currently asking Alexa to find recipes, create grocery lists, order products and we interact with Alexa services such as IFTTT, Nest, Lutron, Spotify, Google Calendar. More services are coming online every day to serve as our personal assistants and manage our lives.
Appliance brands are integrating Alexa and other services into their products to manage appliance functions and to engineer appliances within the same brand to talk to each other. You can ask Alexa or Google Assistant when the dishwasher will be finished. Use voice technology to preheat the oven or to change the oven’s temperature. Set an oven timer. How much time is remaining for the oven timer? Is the ice maker full? Microwave voice control is on the horizon. Tell the dishwasher what program to run next. “Alexa, cook me dinner” would be a welcome upgrade!
Different brands of appliances utilize different features and different connected systems. Appliance software is either open or closed source. Appliances based on an open platform will continue to work and be upgraded as technology changes. There is no one standard for appliance software at the moment. Standards differ among brands—history repeats itself as we have seen before with emerging technologies.
But, there’s more! Voice control technology via Alexa is coming to your kitchen faucet! Command your faucet to turn it on, off, ask for cold or hot water – this is one of the most exciting technologies in the kitchen for 2018. But the best? Put a cup under the faucet and tell the faucet to give you ½ cup of cold water or any other measurement and you have just reclaimed 30 seconds or more of your life (no need to search for the measuring cup)!
2018 is about appliances taking on the role of chef, also called guided cooking. The “chef” via apps built into the appliance or on your phone, video or Alexa-enabled voice, guides the user step by step throughout the recipe. One of the most exciting products is a cooktop connected to a pot connected to the app via bluetooth which controls the power and time in each step of the recipe. Foolproof! Talk about foolproof, scan-to-cook is another new way to cook food perfectly every time via food that is delivered to your door.
Similar in concept to the huge “family hub” screens seen on refrigerators in the past couple of years, GE has introduced an over-the-range version of the hub that also serves as ventilation for the cooking surface below. The appliance features video chat, a camera with multiple angles, access to recipes and guidance, access to calendars, movies, music and more.
Sous vide cooking is having a moment in large appliances for 2018. The sous vide technology in this year’s appliances incorporates either a wet or dry method. Sous vide transforms foods, even hamburgers to high end restaurant quality.
Kitchen ventilation for 2018 is sadly not considered the most exciting appliance category but it’s upping its game this year. New hood technology in downdraft and hood fans will turn the fan on when it detects heat and adjusts the speed accordingly depending on temperature and moisture in the air. Pair your gas cooktop with its app and check if the cooktop knob was left on after you’ve left home! Perfect for distracted people at any age.
There are many combinations of apps and smart technologies to sift through. Appliances partner with independent recipe apps, devices or have their own recipe books to guide the cook step by step via apps, voice commands or video. Appliance brands vary as to which technologies they incorporate and if they are connected via wifi or bluetooth or connected at all. To begin to become aware of what apps and appliances in 2018 can do for you, explore appliance brands and also take a look at these sites. Then, take a nap and repeat.
EVEN MORE APPLIANCE TECH
Refrigerators in 2018 are Alexa-enabled to use voice commands to shop for groceries, search recipes, upload photos, stream music, check your calendar and more – the family hub concept. With cameras installed inside the refrigerator, you can be at the market, fire up the app on your phone and see inside your refrigerator. Each time the refrigerator door is closed, a picture of the interior is taken. Use Alexa to tag foods with expiration dates before they go into the refrigerator. Some refrigerators have a separate drawer or door section which can be set at temperatures from freezing to wine settings. Speaking of refrigerators, for 2018 push-door-to-open technology in built in models is here.
Beyond appliance tech, the first smart light switches that work with Alexa will debut later this year with sensors for natural light and occupants in proximity to the switch. Sonos One speakers already work with Alexa.
Tau Ceramica, manufacturer of porcelain slabs will introduce TPB tech – advanced cooking technology. Induction cooking can take place directly on the countertop. A traditional cooktop is not necessary which means prep, cooking and dining can take place anywhere on the kitchen countertop. Gamechanger!
KITCHEN LIFESTYLE IN 2018
Efficiency is the word that defines how we want to cook and live in our kitchens in 2018. Our behaviors in the kitchen are changing. Amazon is the most important force in increasing efficiencies in our lives and the giant marketplace is changing how we spend our time in the kitchen, the small and large appliances we choose and the food we eat.
Sous vide cooking, the Instant Pot (One pot! Easy prep! Delicious and healthy! No standing at the stove!), cooking with steam, food vacuum sealers, ordering organic groceries online, specialty recipe apps connected to appliances, ovens with step by step instruction all contribute to the ability to enjoy near restaurant quality food quickly. It’s a gourmet hacker’s dream.
We are cooking at home in a more healthful way than ever before. The technologies in large and small appliances mentioned above are moving us in this direction, particularly buoyed by the popularity of the Instant Pot and steam cooking – the latter seen in more appliances in 2018. These cooking efficiencies are tapping into a desire for enhanced wellness and as a bonus, valuable time is saved after a hard day’s work. We can freely choose to a) cook leisurely and well or b) cook quickly and efficiently and well.
The impact of these lifestyle changes on the design of kitchens in 2018 moves toward incorporating larger sinks for easy fresh food prep, specifying a single conventional oven and a steam oven rather than two double conventional ovens and apps which make so many things easier to do in the kitchen. Lighting “scenes” and easily accessible music via apps adds the perfect mood to our activities in the kitchen.
Thanks to these many technological efficiencies, we’ll have more time to hang, relax, and eat. Here’s to a great and delicious 2018!