Hearing a strange voice coming from your kitchen? Don’t worry, it’s probably just your refrigerator reminding you to buy orange juice.
Smart kitchen technology has made our lives easier with kitchen appliances that sync to smartphones and tablets via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth so you can control them remotely. But if you’re of a generation when shopping lists were written on paper and your appliances didn’t talk back to you, that ease might also seem eerie.
“First, people were hesitant to trust smart appliances, says Anthony Starck, president of Luxury Appliance Wholesalers in Manhasset, New York. “Then the whole mindset changed with the surge in doorbell cameras.”
The peace of mind that came with knowing who’s at the door even when nobody’s home has made more homeowners eager to embrace smart technology, Starck says. He’s seen it firsthand in the increased number of customers wanting to purchase smart kitchen appliances.
Even those who don’t shop with smart technology in mind find that they’ll get it anyway, as appliance brands are including smart technology in more of their models, Starck explains.
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A ‘Smart’ Kitchen Upgrade
“The kitchen is no longer just the heart of the home,” says David Harris, a licensed real estate salesperson with Coldwell Banker Warburg in New York City. “It’s become the smartest room in the house.” It’s also the hub that connects everyone, “whether by food or device,” he says.
Smart refrigerators in particular are popular with homeowners because of a camera that captures the interior’s contents. Connect the fridge to its app, and you can see inside at any given time — a bonus when you’re at the grocery store and can’t remember if you need more ketchup. Like to prep meals in advance for the week? Some refrigerators and now digital kitchen backsplashes will display ingredients and calorie counts, perfect for nutrition-focused home chefs.
Some refrigerators are indeed “smarter” than others. Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company, says certain models can scan product barcodes and remind you when they’re approaching their expiration date. Some even have built-in cookbooks that assess the ingredients you have on hand and create recipes accordingly. Still others will take it further and indicate which ingredients are still needed for a recipe, then ask if you want to place a delivery order.
Even if you’re not an avid home chef, there are other practical benefits to your smart fridge. The app can update you on the fridge’s operational status. If something is wrong, you’ll receive an alert to call a repair pro before everything spoils, Shimek says.
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‘Alexa, Help Me Make Dinner’
“Multitasking has become a way of life,” Shimek says. “With smart appliances, you can set your oven to the desired temperature and preheat it without being in your kitchen.”
While apps make it easy to control your appliances from a smartphone or tablet, there are some that will also sync to digital assistance so they can respond to voice commands. If you’re in the middle of mixing cake batter and forgot to preheat the oven, just give a shout to Alexa or Google Assistant.
If you have small children who know how to speak Alexa or play with your tablets occasionally, this might sound like a nightmare in the making. Starck notes that you can always remove apps and take appliances offline if you’re worried about turning on appliances at the wrong time.
Other Ways to Add Smart Technology to the Kitchen
Of course, smart kitchens aren’t always about what’s in the fridge or the oven. Here are some other ways to increase your kitchen’s (artificial) intelligence:
“Smart lighting can help save on electricity, which can reduce the home’s overall energy consumption,” especially in high-traffic areas like the kitchen, says Joel Worthington, president of Mr. Electric, a Neighborly company. But aside from saving on electric bills, there’s a hygienic reason to consider adding smart lighting. “Lights that turn on automatically can also help reduce germ spread since touching light switches is unnecessary,” he explains.
When smart lighting is attached to an app, you’ll not only be able to switch lighting on or off but also program it and adjust the color and brightness from your smartphone or tablet.
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Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
There’s no doubt that smoke and CO2 detectors can save lives when everyone’s at home. But the smart versions of these devices can also alert homeowners to trouble even when they’re not at home.
“This is a helpful feature for those that have older children in the home who may need to take action or remove themselves from the home in an emergency,” Worthington says.
Voice-Activated Smart Faucets
Smart faucets offer a hands-free way to turn on the water. Aside from convenience, there’s an added bonus of safety.
“Voice-activated smart faucets are a nice feature as you can adjust the temperature of the water quickly,” says Worthington. “This feature can be helpful with small children that may inadvertently turn on very hot water in the sink faucet.”
Smart Leak Detection
This is a smart precaution for any water source in the house, but it’s especially good for kitchens with dishwashers and refrigerators with water dispensers, too. “Smart water leak detectors detect water and can help prevent excess water leakage or flooding from pipes or appliances failing,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company.
They also can set off an alarm or send an alert to a smartphone or other device when freezing temperatures are expected. Some leak detectors can even shut off the water in seconds, saving your home from water damage, James says.
The Future of Kitchens Is Now
A smart refrigerator will still keep your food and beverages cold, even if you don’t feel the urge to check on the temperature from your smartphone while you’re away. But Starck says it’s worth giving the smart technology a try for convenience’s sake. “Don’t be intimidated by it,” he says. He will often invite customers who are on the fence to factory showrooms where they can see the kitchen appliance’s technology firsthand so they can get a feeling for how it will work out in their own homes.
“If you’re paying for the technology, you might as well utilize the technology,” says Starck, though he cautions clients to use it properly, especially if children are permitted to play with the adults’ smartphones and tablets.
“It’s a smart appliance. You should be smart using it,” he says.
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Smart Technology in the Kitchen originally appeared on usnews.com