We're proud to feature the Smart Kitchen Summit this month, created by IoTC member, NextMarket Insights. The Summit will be held in Seattle on October 5 and 6. IoTC members qualify for a discount on attendance (email us for the code).

We checked in with NextMarket Insights CEO Michael Wolf on the smart kitchen space and how it is impacting the IoT-at-large. 

What significant changes have you seen in the smart kitchen space since the first year of the event last year?
There’s been a slow but growing awareness of how significant the resulting change from technology will be on food and cooking across the technology, media and investor landscape.  People have realized that the 'war dividend' of technology investment and advancement in IT and mobility from the past two decades - whether it’s cloud, mobile, AI, data - will be just as impactful on this segment as elsewhere.

Have there been any standout smart kitchen success stories? (e.g. Products/services)
It’s more nascent than other areas of smart home, but I would say a few areas:

  • ...in new cooking products, I would point to sous vide. Anova is doing volume of around 400k units and expects to ship one million units next year, which is a fast-ramp in line with what we saw for early days in smart home as with the Nest Thermostat.
  • In more traditional appliances, there’s been a dramatic shift in understanding over the past year among manufacturers in the need to not only add connectivity through Wi-Fi, but the bigger opportunity lies in software around analytics and automation. 
  • Lastly, Amazon has been hugely successful in both its connected commerce (Dash Replenishment) in raising awareness around how IoT and smart home can be the foundation for a service platform. 

What are some of the main challenges you're observing in consumer adoption of smart kitchen appliances?
Consumers are very fixed in their behavior around cooking and the kitchen, as these are behaviors that are shaped since they were born. Product manufacturers have to create products that delivery enough value to endure any switching cost away from what is tried and true. At the same time, the kitchen is the home’s primary makerspace, so there’s also the unique challenge of making products that are more than just cool gadgets, but become important tools that get used every day and not pushed to the back of the drawer. 

What's your favorite smart kitchen device?
I just received my PicoBrew Pico home beer brewing appliance (which I backed on Kickstarter), so I am having fun making beer using IoT technology.

What can other IoT sectors learn from the smart kitchen corner of the IoT ecosystem?
It seems that, more than other segments of IoT, kitchen seems to recognize earlier in its transformation life cycle that long term this will be an orchestra of various parts of the ecosystem. There’s a recognition that this silos probably won’t work well since no one can control the entire value chain (as is the case with, say, digital music distribution). Appliances companies are becoming content companies, food brands are working with hardware and retailers, and everyone is becoming a service provider. The opportunity around food and technology is massive, and the kitchen is where it all comes together.

How are product manufacturers and retailers working together?
In some cases, they are working on building experiential retail to show consumers the value and vision.  It’s early and consumers don’t necessarily know why they’d want a smart kitchen, so companies like Innit are working with Pirch in influencer markets like Manhattan to create showcases of what a fully realized smart kitchen can look like. Other retailers that are more mass-market and high-volume, such as Target, are doubling down on new categories like sous vide and rolling it out to more consumers as see adoption of the category, particularly among Millennials. 

How will smart pantries and fridges fuel potential for the grocery sector, both online, and brick-and-mortar?
It’s early, but we are seeing how sensors and awareness around food inventory, particularly when it’s connected to a commerce system, will move the point of sale from retail, mobile or browser to the point of storage and consumption.  We think that’s what Amazon is aiming for with Dash and its happening. We also think meal planning becomes more connected over time, meaning consumers can plan meals around what they have in inventory in real time as well as instantly order and have food delivered based on what they want to cook that week or that evening. 

What kinds of partnerships will be critical to the success of the smart kitchen sector, both IoT and beyond?
For core technology, appliance and device makers will need to work with cloud, software, silicon and service technology providers to enable new and interesting products that help reinvent cooking in new and useful ways. Appliance and food brands will need to work together to make sure food information is properly communicated and understood. Everyone will need to work with content providers and become content providers themselves. Lastly, companies will need to work with commerce, logistics and security providers to make sure food and cooking built on new technology and service layers work well and works safely, since eating is about the most important thing we do to ensure we are happy and healthy.

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