Juan Rico, Head of Business Development IoT, Teka Group
The eternal promise of a smart home is becoming a reality day by day, and this evolution removed many technological and social barriers. However, the plethora of different technologies, providers, standards limited the massive adoption of the existing solutions, since customers’ concerns on selecting the “right one” were always on the table. On the other hand, despite the heterogeneity, there are lots of solutions already available reflecting market acceptances of home technologies, and cooperation helps to boost it.
IoT at home is not an isolated solution but a bunch of elements collaborating and adding value to draw a virtuous circle. The centre of the circle is the people at different levels, but with a business perspective creating revenue streams to make the concept sustainable.
To illustrate this reality, we just need to step into our homes, and we have the video doorbell connected to our smartphone app via WiFi, enabling us to handle online orders delivery. We have our home thermostat acting automatically based on our comfort preferences; our wireless speaker playing music only in the room we are at home. And, we can continue with light bulbs and TV that both together collaborate to create a charming atmosphere to enjoy our favourite movie.
However, technology and available solutions are not so widely adopted when we enter the kitchen.
Automation of home needs is already covered, and solutions are mature and available (lighting, air conditioning, heating). However, with the same degree of technological maturity and with even more years in the IoT developers-mind kitchen connected appliances has not yet ramped up. Kitchen key issue is not the optimisation, is more about health, economy, sustainability, and the cornerstone; the social activities developed around food preparation and enjoyment. Therefore, moving in the same plane as industrial use cases will lead to a very weak adoption and the efforts have to be oriented towards improving enjoyment and creating emotions on top of technology.
In the end, the kitchen is considered the heart of the home, so the challenges are more related to “heart” rather than any other feeling. Automation is not a driver to include connectivity in the kitchen since most of the activities must be done manually, and the connectivity doesn’t provide any additional value to the cooking process. Therefore, connected appliances value should focus on emotion and not only automation. Consequently, the purchase decision is always from customers, but the benefits are distributed in three main layers.
• Customer layer – Offering customers a unique experience that simplifies challenging cooking actions, while reinforcing the joyous experience in the heart of their home. For instance, if someone wants to create an outstanding dinner for friends, IoT should help on the cooking process without taking out the proud of the handmade, secret ingredient flavour.
This can be done by supporting other recipes to accompany the main dish, offering music to listen while cooking or eating, how to handle the leftovers to create new dishes
• Product layer – IoT must be used as the mean to understand how appliances work in real life. Consumer tests and labs are environments that give a limited range of information. However global scale deployment enables data-driven services that benefit at the operational level, after-sales, technical support, and product development. This is the door opened to AI and whose outcomes will radically transform kitchens in the future.
If technology is already mainstream and does not represent an entry barrier for IoT explosion, why smart kitchen adoption is so weak?
• Marketing layer – the closer a company is to people interests, the easier will be engaging them with content, products and therefore, increase loyalty to the brand. Here the combination of social trends, customer activities, companies’ interests and partners’ network change the communication paradigm.
In summary, IoT has an incredible transformation potential for our relationship with kitchen appliances, not only in the first wave of connected products but in the evolution of products based on usage data. Moreover, the mandatory step is to change the mindset and value proposition of IoT in the kitchen, and to make the step from simplifying processes through automation, to creating amazing experiences and arose emotions.