The Internet of Cooking, Food, and Things

The Rise of the Smart Kitchen Summit

Not quite two years ago, Michael Wolf, The Smart Home Show founder and 20 year veteran of technology industry research, called me to pitch an idea. Already deeply entrenched with homes security, hubs, speakers, platforms, and other categories, Michael had become one of IOT’s most influential analysts and was hosting his own events at SXSW and CES. Our shared love of Bill Simmons, podcasting culture, and technology history made us fast friends. While teaching at NYU, I took a job running an IOT company called Soundwall and he advised me on strategy. During those calls I became a sounding board for his entrepreneurial endeavors and one day I picked up the phone to hear this:

Aaron, The kitchen is becoming the next big battleground in tech. I’m contemplating organizing a conference around it. What do you think?

Two years later, The SmartKitchen Summit just concluded its second year event with over 400 attendees nearly doubling his event from 2015. Smart Eating has emerged as a sprawling category with multiple segments, a panoply of investors, and many large corporations (Whirlpool, Kenmore, and Target) hoping to avoid the fates of one-time category giants — Kodak , Blockbuster, or Kmart— all of which were crushed within the first two decades of the Internet revolution.

Still in in inchoate state, the Smart Kitchen movement is already subdividing into several important trends that I observed as a participant and moderator.

  1. Appliances — Among the 15 or so startups that made it to the SmartKitchen startup content finals at least 50% were integrations of hardware and cooking. Anova, the company that championed Smart Sous Vide cooking, began this movement, but now big companies like Jenn-Air and Thermomix and startups like Sereneti Kitchens, or Cucinale are reinventing cooking.
  2. Gardening — Technology is enabling in an indoor back to the land movement. Companies such as Grove, and others have integrated light and water systems that are self-sustaining, require little maintenance, and produce herbs, fruits and vegetables within your home.
  3. Wellness. At Vitamix, Company COO Tony Ciepiel focuses on “well-being” They launched a new appliance at SmartKitchen Summit that blends trends from the FitBit inspired quantifed-self movement and the smoothie revolution to bring precise measurement to food preparation. Partnering with the Perfect Company’s scale, Vitamix’s latest product ensures you know exactly how many calories and other nutrients are contained within each recipe. Hot startup Juicero a mashup of Organic Avenue, Keurig and Blue Apron wants to be dead simple, no cleaning required , subscription service for daily juice. Juicero hips organic juice packets to their California-only beta customers twice weekly.
  4. Home Cooking Renaissance. From ChefSteps to All Recipes, companies large and small are empowering novice cooks to make restaurant quality food. Industry market research reveals a generation that grew up eating out lacks confidence in the kitchen. Smart Kitchen companies market an inspired proposition: make it super easy to make super meals. Anova has already sold many thousands of Sous Vide units. On a panel with Kenji Lopez-Alt and Anova community people the central theme was that Sous Vide was generating new levels of experimentation among amateurs. Fewer overcooked meals and endless celebratory instagram photos were leading to a surge in novice chef confidence. Now mixing (Kenwood) and baking (Juno) manufacturers are synthesizing sensors, software, to foolproof the kitchen.

History has not been kind to incumbent players in mature industries. Tesla, Uber, and Google have set their sights on Detroit, Munich, and Nagoya. Not long ago, your home had a big picture tube television and corded phone. It’s easy to forget that the Iphone is only 9 years old or that Apple nearly went out of business 20 years ago when Dell was the dominant personal computer company.

The kitchen and food industries are beginning a decade of serious transformation. Our future kitchens will be more malleable as they integrate elements of farms, restaurants, and computers into their smart designs. Along this journey, companies large and small will compete and partner to redefine where we source our food and how we prepare it. What remains to be seen is what people and organizations will harvest the rewards of defining this future.

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