In a smart kitchen, all your products are connected: your coffee machine, your fridge, your voice assistant, and your phone. TE Connectivity, one of the sponsors of the Smart Kitchen Summit (SKS), is working to help link up your devices more effectively and efficiently.
We connected (ha!) with Nick Langston, Director of Business Development for TE Connectivity, about how he envisions the future of the connected kitchen. Hint: it's got sensors, wearables, and perfectly-crisp pizza.
This Q&A has been edited for clarity.
The Spoon: What products and services are TE Connectivity developing for the connected home, particularly in the kitchen?
TE Connectivity: TE’s portfolio of relays, signal and power interconnects, antennas and sensor solutions fit very well into the connected home space. TE products sit at the center of the connected home and our portfolio of products enable smart home device operation, data capture, sensor-based automation and remote access control.
Additionally, we have a development team working exclusively on next-generation sensing and connectivity products for the smart kitchen. We have development projects spanning the component level (smart relays, for example) up to appliance architecture (smart bus system). The solutions that are currently finding their way into product applications include wireless power transmitters and receivers, touch sensing solutions using piezoelectric films and wireless, energy harvesting (battery-less) temperature probes.
Are there any trends you see emerging in the smart kitchen which you think will shape the way consumers find, prepare, or eat food?
The proliferation of sensors into more and more applications in the kitchen is here to stay and will continue to grow. In addition, I think homeowners want more precise control over their food preparation aligned to their own specific tastes and lifestyle. Fast, digital access to recipes available at your fingertips, calorie counts, nutritional facts, etc. will allow homeowners to create a specific food experience with instant access to the nutritional aspects of the ingredients being incorporated into the food they are preparing.
Appliance manufacturers are working to ensure consumers enjoy a successful outcome no matter what conditions they place on the equipment. For example, closed-loop temperature monitoring allows a stove to change temperature as needed to ensure the food is being cooked properly – without user intervention. This requires precise, continuous sensing.
What’s one aspect of the connected kitchen you’re particularly excited to follow as it grows and becomes more refined?
The integration of individual health and activity data from wearables, mobile devices, our physicians and even social media to specify the optimal menu on any given day, in addition to the reduction of tasks and, finally, less direct interaction with our kitchen devices.
For example: I prepare a pizza and place it in the oven. The oven “knows” it’s a pizza, knows I like a crispy crust versus a soft crust, and sets the appropriate temperature and time to prepare the food to my specific taste. No longer do I need to set the temperature, set the timer, check on the pizza for the right crispiness level, etc. It’s all done automatically for me.
I also like the concept of instant digital access to the nutritional aspects of the food we are preparing and digital access to recipes, etc. With smart technology in the kitchen, and voice activation, I can say or input that I want to prepare a chicken dish for two people that is spicy and has less than 600 calories per serving. Immediately several options are communicated to me with the ingredient list. Even better would be if the system knew the ingredients I already had in my kitchen so the system would not make recommendations for meals which needed ingredients I did not have.
How do large companies such as TE stay competitive against smaller, more nimble startups in the connected kitchen space?
In our space we see ourselves as a partner to startup companies to help them make the right connectivity selections for their end products to do everything they advertise. All our customers, large, small or start up, look to TE Connectivity to solve their most challenging connectivity problems. We’re in a great position in the market because we’re not competing with the innovators in this space. Rather, we’re enabling their innovation through our sensing and connectivity products. This allows us to see a vast spectrum of innovations and concepts that feed directly into our own R&D efforts.