Samsung unveiled its newest smart refrigerator at last January’s CES, and it took mere moments for the jokes and incredulity to follow. Consumers might laugh, but investors are taking kitchen Internet of Things (IoT) technology seriously.
It’s an interesting development. The past decade or so has seen trends in food that are about getting back to basics – growing it, butchering it, making it, a movement that’s linked to better personal health and sensitive environmental stewardship. There’s now a couple of generations who know enough about food to create meals worthy of a Michelin-starred kitchen, or at least an Instagram shot. There’s been a big increase in culinary school offerings and programs and student graduates.
And yet the connected kitchen is basically the antithesis of the slow-food, locavore, artisanal, happy chicken philosophy of food that emphasizes a heightened awareness of where food comes from and how we eat it. By automating food preparation, kitchen IoT could widen the gap between food at its source and what’s on our plate.
Will consumers embrace the smart kitchen? The biggest hurdle to crowding the countertop with intelligent cooking tools, according to some research, is cost. Investors, on the other hand, are putting some serious cabbage behind IoT kitchen devices.
So if you can’t figure out how to boil water, these might be the devices for you.
1. June Intelligent Oven
June is a smart-appliance company, and it just raised $22.5 million in Series A funding, bringing total investments to almost $30 million to date. The startup’s first product is the June Intelligent Oven, which looks like a big, sleek $1,500 toaster oven. Some of the smarts come from Food ID technology, which identifies food via cameras and cooks it. You can also keep track of what’s cooking via an app which includes video and oven monitoring.
It should be noted that Juicero isn’t just about juicing – it’s about a mission. The company is “on a mission to help people consume more fresh produce every day.” They want to do that by getting Juicero units in many kitchens, with the help of a recent $70 million Series B round. The units kinda run like a Nespresso – a premade pack of produce (there are five to choose from at the moment) goes into the machine, which then turns it into cold-pressed juice. Just get ready to lay down some lettuce – the units cost almost $700 and the packs go from $4 to $10 by subscription (and only in California, for the moment).
3. Xiaomi Smart Rice Cooker
If rice is a regular part of your diet – as it is for millions of people around the world – then you probably already have a rice cooker in your kitchen. Smart rice cookers are a thing, and Chinese company Xiaomi just launched its smart rice cooker. Turns out if you think making rice is a just-add-water situation, you’re wrong. The art of cooking perfect rice lives at the intersection of pressure and temperature. The Xiaomi unit can scan 500 different brands of rice to identify the right prep method and deliver cooked rice.
4. Kuvée Wine Bottle
Boston-based start-up Kuvée has created a Wi-Fi wine bottle that displays a plethora of wine info and, the company claims, keeps wine fresh for up to 30 days. There’s the “bottle” unit, which houses the canisters that actually contain the wine. The canisters can be switched out for different varietals. Inside the canisters the wine is stored in bags, which is basically the same technology that bag-in-box wines use (and some of those also claim pretty long post-open lives as well). Other than that, the bottle will tell you things like what you’re drinking, pairing suggestions, other Kuvée range offerings, and how much is left in the bottle, which you can usually do by… looking at the bottle. Luddites. The company just raised $6 million in funding.
5. The Robo Kitchen
You’ve given up even trying to cook, and that’s just fine because the UK’s Moley Robotics has a completely robot-controlled kitchen, which the company is claiming as a “world first.” A real chef was used to model movements, which the robo-chef can replicate. It even cleans up after itself. Right now, though, the only thing on the menu is lobster bisque, but Moley says there will be 2,000 recipes preloaded for the consumer launch in 2017.
For IoT services to succeed in your organization, you need the right people driving it. For more on the topic, see How to Rewire the Organization for the Internet of Things.