Connected kitchens: Putting the smart into cooking
The kitchen is the heart of the home. It's where we start and finish our days and it's one of the rooms that we invest in the most - some of our most important gadgets live in the kitchen.
Kitchens are designed to be functional, but that doesn't mean they are devoid of technology and there's plenty that a smart kitchen can bring in terms of functionality and convenience and we're not just talking about smartphone control of your kitchen lights and blinds.
If you're looking to make your kitchen the heart of your smart home, then you've come to the right place. Here are some of the best connected kitchen gadgets you can get right now, and there will be plenty more coming in the future.
A note on systems
Smart home systems are very much in their infancy, even if some of the protocols have been in use for some time. Now, more than ever, however, we're looking at properly connected devices working towards an integrated system, the internet of things in your kitchen and around your home.
One of the things that may tie this together is Apple's Homekit or the Thread Group, which includes Google and Samsung, amongst others.
It's likely to be one of these platforms that leads a truly integrated experience, with smartphone controls of your kitchen appliances, as well as your home environment.
One consideration is that many kitchen elements need some sort of human interaction: dishwashers and washing machines need loading, hobs need something to cook, so smart features will vary.
The likes of Samsung, LG, Bosch-Siemens, Whirlpool and others all want to connect your domestic appliances to give you a smarter kitchen, focusing on things like programming, managing consumables, notifications and diagnostics.
Fridges have stolen the headlines, with both Samsung and LG offering fridges that are connected to the internet. Fortunately both offer a host of regular fridge technology outside of the smart stuff, so you're still getting something cool.
The LG Smart ThinQ refrigerator is a three-door fridge (all the rage in the chicest kitchens around), with a display. It's designed to help you manage your food, letting you check what you've got and syncing to your phone app, so when you're out shopping you know what you've got in the fridge.
Availability is limited, however, and you'll be looking at over $3000 for a fridge.
Samsung's refrigerator with apps comes in four door and side-by-side configurations. Connecting to your home network will give you access to apps through the 8-inch display, so you can check your calendar, view photos, check the weather and so on. Again, you can expect to pay around $2500 for the side-by-side.
Whether that's the sort of smart you're looking for in the kitchen is questionable, but you might be interested in the Samsung WW9000 washing machine. This machine features a touchscreen display with controls designed to be much more intuitive.
You'll be able to swipe through the programs and easily change the settings, without the need to twist dials or cross-check mysterious symbols. Even better on this 10kg, 1600rpm machine, is the integrated detergent dispenser. This will save you from measuring out the detergent in every wash, because the machine will do it for you. Now that's smart.
Let's get cooking
If you're looking for a smarter cooker or hob - and we're not talking about design - then induction hobs are the first port of call. Not only do they offer easy cleaning, but it's the clever control that's really appealing.
Panasonic offers Opti-Sensor technology that will monitor and maintain the temperature you've set, detecting small fluctuations, such as when you add cold food to the pan. You can expect to pay around £1300 for the hob, which comes in different sizes to suit your kitchen.
If you want to make your extractor hood work in sync with your hob, then AEG have a clever Hob2hood connectivity feature. This will allow your induction hob to start your extraction hood automatically as things start to heat up. There are controls on the HK854401FB hob to manage your hood speed. The hob starts at £999 and there are three models of compatible hood to suit your kitchen design.
Best smart kitchen gadgets
Aside from some of the larger kitchen appliances, there are plenty of small devices too.
If you're a meat eater, then you'll want to ensure you cook the perfect steak or roast. Meat thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking times and the iGrill Mini wants to add Bluetooth to the mix. Cooking on your BBQ will be easier to monitor to ensure that slab of steak is cooked perfectly. iGrill Mini is available for around £35.
If you want to know what you're eating, then the Escali SmartConnect Kitchen Scales will weigh your food and let you see the nutritional value through your Bluetooth-connected smartphone. You can get the Escali SmartConnect scales for $99, or about £60.
If you want to make sure your kettle is boiled before you get downstairs, then the answer lies with iKettle. This Wi-Fi kettle will let you start boiling from your Apple or Android phone and it even has smart features, like asking if you'd like to put the kettle on when you arrive home.
READ: iKettle review
The iKettle will cost £99, but there's also a range of skins available for it so you can change the colour to suit your kitchen décor. What's not to love?
Slow cookers have been growing in popularity again recently, and the Crock-Pot really is the master of things like pulled pork. Dragging slow cooking into the future is the WeMo enabled Crock-Pot, meaning smartphone control.
You'll be able to check the cooking time, see when your meal will be ready, or adjust the heat level if you want to speed things up or slow things down. The WeMo Crock-Pot will cost you $129.
Fan of home brew? Then the Brewbot is just the thing for you. It's currently on pre-order (expected to ship in September 2014) and is pricey at £1700, but if you've ever wanted smartphone-controlled home brewing then this is the device for you.
It's a hefty lump, so you may want to set aside space in your garage rather than your kitchen, but it uses an array of sensors to monitor and let you control each stage of the brewing process with your phone. You'll be able to create a wide range of beers and tinker with recipes to make yourself into a master micro brewer.
There's plenty of technology that will find a home in your kitchen. We're on the cusp of this connected revolution, but there's no shortage of options currently out there to make your kitchen smarter.
For those that can't afford a complete redesign and the installation of a new hob, you can instead just look to some of the latest gadgets that will let you see what's going on from your phone.
There will be a lot happening in the future to bring more control and information to your smartphone, so expect prices to fall - especially in large appliances. It won't be long before you'll be getting notifications on your TV that your Sunday roast is finished.