Cooking up the connected kitchen

By , ITworld |  IT Management

My first example of that geek/cook response was to Whirlpool's refrigerator that includes a built-in Bluetooth speaker. The CoolVox refrigerator lets users play music through the refrigerator directly from an app on smart- or Bluetooth- enabled devices. "Now consumers can listen to instructional ‘How to Cook' podcasts directly through the refrigerator, play fun/entertaining music while cooking with the kids, and even throw a dinner party and assign specific playlists to each course," crows the press release.

Geez, I thought, who needs that? But wait: I often play music on my iPad while I'm cooking dinner. I can't hear anything over the sound of the food processor, so a speaker makes sense in the kitchen. Except counter space is always at a premium, and I'm not sure I want a Bluetooth speaker to be splattered by duck fat or melted chocolate. Why not use the fridge as a boom box?

Kitchen devices' status reports also seem superfluous, initially. A clothes washing machine can give you a status report about supplies (since you can load it up with a lot of soap, rather like rinse aid in the dishwasher), in the same way your printer can let you know it's running low on ink. The connectivity is early days, though; if a refrigerator tells you that the water filter needs to be replaced, there's no one-button "Well then order another one for me!" option, much less a kitchen brownie to magically install the filter once it arrives. (Why yes, mine has been sitting on the counter for two months, waiting for me to get a round to it. How did you know?)

Yet ... status is not just for the user. As one vendor pointed out, "What if you could get an alert that your Mom's fridge hasn't been opened in three days?" Those of us with aging parents might see that as a compelling up-sell, since a lack of activity might indicate a medical emergency to check out (or at least a phone call, "Mom, you okay?").

At least the standards issue is one that is getting attention. Arrayent showed me its Arrayent Connect Platform, a library for developers that, they promise, "enables low-cost consumer products to connect to value-added smartphone and web applications with unprecedented low cost." Manufacturers that write to their platform (as Whirlpool is doing) can avoid having to think about LAN support, security updates, opening router ports, or dealing with fixed IP addresses (just think, a stove with an IP address ... ). This might sidestep the OS upgrade issues for a kitchen appliance. I doubt it'll solve all the issues, but it's a start.
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