18. April 2014
By: Karen Elder
Imagine a future in which your kitchen counter doubles as your stovetop. There are no designated burners, so you can place a pot anywhere on the glass-ceramic surface and boil water instantly. You control it with a glass touch-screen interface built into the countertop, and you can pull up recipes, social media streams, and music directly on the surface where you’re cooking.
When Whirlpool debuted this vision for the future of kitchen design earlier this year, some suspected it would take a decade to realize. Yet this future is closer than many think since much of the technology already exists. And stovetops are only the beginning. Manufacturers have advanced technology at their fingertips that brings the future of kitchen design and user interaction much closer to reality. Here are five ways manufacturers can bake smarter technology into kitchen appliances today:
1. Touchable cooktops. We’ve all become accustomed to skittering our fingers across touch screens on phones and tablets, but stovetops have always been off limits to bare hands. Even if you could touch the top of the stove without getting burned, most stovetops aren’t compatible with touch screens since the heat coming from the burner (especially when part of a freestanding range with an oven underneath) makes it difficult for many electronics systems to function properly. That’s why most controls end up on the backsplash.
But with induction burners, which use magnetic waves to turn pots into the heat source, the only heat on the stovetop is what radiates from the pot. This technology keeps the surface relatively cooler and puts sophisticated touch-screen cooktops within reach. And the idea of a stove without dedicated cooking zones is already here, as seen in the high-end Gaggenau CX480 induction cooktop, which simply senses a pot and heats it wherever you might place it on the surface.
2. Glass-ceramic’s new look. Glass-ceramic cooktop surfaces already live in more than 100 million kitchens. Their unique thermal properties keep the surface relatively cool even as particular cooking zones heat up, making them integral to an induction-powered touch-screen stovetop. But they also create opportunities in unique kitchen design. Perhaps the most innovative of SCHOTT CERAN products is manufactured for induction only. The transparent glass ceramic allows manufacturers to print different colors and patterns on both sides of the glass, meaning your cooktop could blend seamlessly into your countertop. At the same time, it can integrate touch controls and indicator lights that show when the surface is in use.
3. Kitchen wide web. Manufacturers have also been weaving the Internet into appliances, such as the Discovery iQ 48″ Dual-Fuel Range from Dacor, which offers a small screen on the control panel that cooks can use to search the Internet and watch cooking tutorials from their ranges. In addition, Samsung’s newest Wi-Fi-enabled refrigerator allows users to make phone calls, watch TV, and sling smartphone screens right to the fridge.
4. Chatty kitchens. But Wi-Fi connectivity does more than just give cooks access to the web. Whirlpool’s vision of next-generation connected kitchen would allow the fridge, dishwasher, oven, and stove to “talk” through a unified app. The refrigerator could suggest recipes based on its stores and tell the oven to begin preheating. Samsung’s smart home concept extends the idea. Through a simple app, users can talk with their refrigerators, ovens, and sinks to stay updated on the state of their kitchens. Users can even text their refrigerators while at the supermarket to find out if they’re out of eggs or message the oven to see if the roast’s done.
5. Remote cooking. With new appliances and apps, you don’t even have to be in the kitchen to cook that roast. GE’s Brillion app allows home cooks to remotely input oven temperatures, bake times, and doneness settings from their phone, allowing them to pre-heat their oven on the way home from work or track the baking status of a pie or cake from the next room. The We-Mo Crock-Pot Slow Cooker also connects to your phone, allowing you to adjust temperatures, change cooking times, and confirm the status of crockpot dishes.
The future of kitchen design will draw on everything from the smartphone in your pocket to the potential of induction cooking and the strength and design flexibility of glass-ceramic. It’ll be smart. It’ll be hands-on. It’ll use familiar technology to build a kitchen fundamentally new — and it’s closer than you think.
What technologies are you most excited to try out in your kitchen?