It has been somewhat of a whirlwind year for the smart kitchen. At times, it has felt that the announcements were coming so thick and fast that it was difficult to keep up. Couple that with not one but three Smart Kitchen Summit events, in Seattle, Japan and Dublin, and it's safe to say that the kitchen is beginning to catch up with the rest of the smart home. In a transformative year for the smart kitchen, we've put together 4 ways it has changed in 2018.
1. The smart kitchen became more connected
We're big fans of all things smart kitchen, but we've always thought that more collaboration is required in order to offer the best experience to consumers who are spending their hard-earned cash on smart appliances. 2018 saw fresh connections and partnerships between companies that should help do just that. LG and Electrolux forged partnerships with Drop, Innit and SideChef, while GE partnered with Innit and Hestan. These partnerships are vital in order to improve the smart functionality of mainstream appliances. We can't help but think though that an inter-brand partnership that would allow appliances from different brands to work together in harmony would be a big hit with consumers. Home Connect is a start, enabling consumers to control appliances and devices from a number of different brands from one app, but we remain convinced that further collaboration between brands will increase smart appliance adoption amongst consumers. The connections created in 2018 illustrate that mainstream appliance manufacturers are serious about creating a smart kitchen experience that will appeal to consumers.
2. The countertop became more crowded
We've mentioned this in previous blogs, but countertop space is at a premium in many homes. That hasn't stopped manufacturers of countertop appliances though, many of whom doubled down on the countertop space in 2018. We began 2018 wondering if the June countertop oven would ever be back in stock, and had to wait until August for the launch of their second-generation model, which sold out within a couple of days. It seems it was worth the wait, with The Spoon giving it a very favourable review. The second-generation June joined the likes of Tovala, Suvie and Hestan Cue in taking on the countertop space, but they weren't alone in 2018. Brava, a smart countertop oven that uses light to cook your food, launched this year. It takes up less real estate on your countertop than the June, so it might be more popular amongst those who struggle with space. Moving away from countertop ovens, and perhaps one the most surprising announcements of 2018, Drop and Kenwood launched the Kenwood kCook Multi Smart, and all-in-one countertop appliance. Drop have cooking up a storm in the connected kitchen of late (you can find recipes from Octopus Publishing that were provided through Recipe Guru on their app), and this partnership enables them to flex their hardware muscles alongside a giant of the appliance world. As the countertop become more crowded though, manufacturers will need to stand out from the crowd in order to grab a piece of that limited real estate.
3. Amazon entered the smart kitchen
Amazon is in disruption mode. From books to brick-and-mortar grocery, Amazon is not afraid to take on well-established sectors. 2018 brought somewhat of a surprise from the e-commerce giants though, with the launch of the AmazonBasics microwave. It's not going to disrupt the smart kitchen space. Its name does not betray it - it is basic - but with this voice-controlled microwave, Amazon is dipping its toe into the smart kitchen. And while it's not all that smart (Alexa isn't built into the microwave so it requires a separate Echo device in order to use the voice-control function), that isn't really the point of this microwave. It's designed to show other manufacturers just how easy it is to integrate the Amazon Connection Kit into their devices. With Amazon though, who knows? Perhaps they'll get a taste for the growing smart kitchen space? It's safe to say though that their first attempt hasn't really taken the world by storm, but at $60, it could function as an entry-level smart appliance.
4. The kitchen got more screens
We're completely on board with all things smart kitchen, but we have a particular soft spot for screens. Food is visual, and anything that enables us to easily browse, select, read and follow along with recipes is a winner. When the Echo Show was released, we felt that it was a game-changer in the smart kitchen. Voice-controlled and visual? We're in. The second-generation Echo Show was released in 2018, but this year it has faced some stiff competition. Lenovo and JBL both released Google Assistant powered smart displays in 2018, but the real winner came from Google itself. Their Home Hub received rave reviews for the recipe functionality, which was described as 'well ahead of Alexa's similar recipe feature on the Echo Show' by CNET. For us, these smart displays feel genuinely useful and are a much more affordable way for consumers to test out screens in the kitchen without spending thousands on a smart fridge.
It feels like it has been a transformative year for the smart kitchen. The focus has shifted slightly in favour of what the consumer really wants, and more affordable smart kitchen options are beginning to make their way onto the market. The global smart appliances market is forecast to reach $53 billion by 2022, and there's no doubt that the smart kitchen space will contribute a significant amount to that.