Smart Kitchen Notes: Initial SKS16 Speakers Announced, Samsung's Smart Fridge, Echo Meets Triby

It’s hard to believe we are five months away from the 2016 Summit - we are still hearing conversations about last year’s event and the partnerships and exciting things that happened as a result. But we’re heading into the summer with a singular focus in mind: create a completely unforgettable smart kitchen event. With that in mind, we’ve started to preview some of the amazing speakers we have lined up the event - folks from diverse backgrounds in culinary, commerce, design and tech who hope to bring their insights to the stage.

Check out the emerging speaker lineup for the 2016 Smart Kitchen Summit.

We’re busy working with our Smart Kitchen Summit Advisory Council on the themes and editorial for this event, and we’re committed to delivering even more exciting panels, discussions and conversations than the year before. This year, we’re getting things started a bit earlier with a keynote reception and cocktail hour the night before. We’re not ready to say just who will be featured at that event, but we’re pretty sure you won’t want to miss it. The evening event will set the stage for the full day of panels, firesides, presentations and pitches around topics like the Internet of Food and the big data of the stuff we eat and the move to transform cooking and food prep with machine learning & artificial intelligence, among others.

Have a topic you know what would be a hit at the 2016 Summit? Pitch us here.

Five months to go, and lots to do. We hope you’ll join us!


Samsung Begins To Ship The Family Hub Refrigerator

The Gist: Samsung had the most high profile of the smart kitchen product debuts at CES this year with the Family Hub refrigerator, an Internet connected fridge with a massive 21 inch screen and a hefty $6 thousand price tag.  This week Samsung announced commercial availability of the product.

Our Take: Of all the categories in the connected kitchen, the connected refrigerator is most likely to receive a health dose of skepticism. That's because companies like Samsung, LG and Whirlpool have been trying to fuse the Internet with the fridge since the early 2000s, and the result has been a string of fairly clunky products with little staying power and even less tangible consumer benefits. However, in recent years the arrival of low-cost cameras and internal sensors have intrigued consumers and, as a result, Samsung and others have decided to give the connected fridge another go.

While we felt the LG smart fridge was perhaps the most intriguing of this year's CES crop due to intriguing features like the ability to see what's inside by knocking on the front of the fridge, the Samsung Family Hub also was interesting for different reasons. For one, the massive Tizen-powered touch screen on the front offers lots of screen real estate for tailored apps. The inventory manager app also appears interesting, giving consumers some new ways to do fairly easy (but not perfect) inventory tracking using photo-tagging (as demoed here in the initial CNET review). 

Bottom line, the challenge for Samsung will be adding enough value to make the fridge's big price tag seem worth it, while also managing to keep the device relevant and up to date from a technology perspective in a category where consumers expect 10 or 15 year life spans from their fridges. 

Sears getting serious about the smart home (but will it enter the smart kitchen?)
The Gist: Sears debuted a line of private labeled smart home products last week, including a water heater retrofit module and a connected riding mower.

Our Take: Like many brick and mortar retailers, Sears is struggling in the age of Amazon and Costco. Also like many others, the iconic retailer is beginning to turn to connected devices as one way to possibly reinvent itself. 

Sears has always derived a significant amount of its business from its own private label brands such as Kenmore and Craftsman, and given the retailer's historically strong market share in its core markets (like tools) it's worth noting the move. While the company has yet to announce any connected kitchen appliances, we think doing so would be an interesting move since Kenmore appliances appeal to middle and modest income households and could help mainstream the connected white goods category.

Bottom line, Sears may also want to rethink attention to its traditional sales floor plans and formats in its effort to sell connected devices. It customers are generally middle to late stage adopters, so it would benefit them to show product benefits through in-store experiential retail formats. I've written a lot about how it often takes a new approach to selling products in the era of IoT, one that focuses on experiential retail and possibly even entirely new models like that from B8ta.  While Sears may have a hard time remaking themselves overnight, they could at the very least begin to experiment with lab-style offshoots like B8ta or Target's Open House in San Francisco. 

Alexa finds her first hardware partner in the kitchen
The Gist: French startup Invoxia showed up at Smart Kitchen Summit 2015 with their connected kitchen speaker and communication device Triby last November, but recently became the first third party hardware device to integrate Amazon's Alexa. 

Our Take: With a family-friendly appeal and a whimsical design, Triby debuted as a niche kitchen device designed for sending fun messages, making calls and listening to music. With the addition of Alexa, however, Triby has positioned itself to be a unique alternative to the Echo itself, or perhaps just the dedicated Echo of the kitchen. It also marks the first of what likely be a more pervasive presence of Alexa in third party devices as Amazon works with partners and also continued to invest in companies looking to integrate Alexa through its Alexa Fund. 

Summit News

Join our team and the folks at Williams-Sonoma at the upcoming Future: Kitchen event at Williams-Sonoma test kitchen in San Francisco. An evening of food, drink and conversation about the future of the connected kitchen, the event will bring together those interested in the intersection of tech, food, commerce and the kitchen with special guests Chef Michael Voltaggio of Top Chef and LA restaurant ink, Doug Evans, Founder & CEO, Juicero and Darren Vengroff, Chief Scientist, Hestan Smart Cooking. In addition to great conversation, you'll be treated to cocktails by the world famous Bon Vivants, beer from Tiger Beer and wine from Cline Cellars.

May 12, 2016 | 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. | Williams-Sonoma HQ
3250 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94109

Space is extremely limited, so get your ticket today!

Stay tuned for some new Smart Kitchen Show podcasts coming in the next week and subscribe to our newsletter if you haven't already!