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Smart Home

Will the next smart-home revolution take place in the kitchen?

Tech startups, appliance manufacturers and chefs gathered this week at the Smart Kitchen Summit to discuss the future of the kitchen, introduce new products and more.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Food is front and center at the Smart Kitchen Summit, an annual gathering of startups, appliance manufacturers, chefs and journalists that this year took place Oct. 8 and 9 in Seattle. Unlike CES, IFA and other alphabet-soup tech shows that display a broad swath of innovation, the Smart Kitchen Summit is dedicated to how companies are using internet connectivity, artificial intelligence and software platforms to streamline and improve the way you buy, store and prepare food. (Full disclosure: I participated in three panels during the summit.) 

Here are some highlights from this year:

  • The June Intelligent Oven, the Wi-Fi-connected countertop oven that uses cameras and software to recognize foods, will automatically cook select dishes from Whole Foods. More than 30 of Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value products and other foods at the Amazon-owned grocery store will have automatic cook programs in the June's control menu. 
  • We got hands-on time with the Brava Oven, a countertop oven that uses light to cook food. Like the June, it has a built-in camera so you can watch your food cook in real time via an app. 
  • Partnerships between software companies and appliance manufacturers made up a big portion of the news that came out of the conference. This means that internet-connected kitchen appliances work with a larger variety of recipe apps, so you can send info like oven settings and cook times to your appliance from your favorite app. These partnerships include: The Drop recipes app works with Electrolux appliances; Chefling works with Bosch and Thermador appliances; SideChef works with GE and LG appliances; and Innit now works with LG.
  • Speaking of collaborations, the Hestan Cue cooking system will work with GE Appliances' Cafe line of induction cooktops and stoves. That means you can use Bluetooth-connected Hestan cookware and the recipe app will automatically control cooking temperatures on Cafe induction burners when you're using Hestan's guided cooking system to cook a dish.

In past years, the summit has been the place where we've learned about new connected kitchen products, like Kenmore's line of Wi-Fi-connected refrigerators and NutriBullet's Bluetooth-enabled personal blenders that track the calories in your smoothies. The gathering has also provided startups a chance to show off prototypes of new products, like cooking machines and countertop drink makers. And we've seen plenty of guided cooking systems that use an app and connected induction cooktop to walk you step by step through recipes.

This year, I expected to see more collaborations between software platforms and smart large appliances, a natural progression of what we've seen take place in the kitchen. A few years ago, manufacturers were quick to throw some Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or NFC into an appliance and call it smart. But these established brands didn't have the knowledge or nimbleness of small software companies. So instead of trying to compete with these upstarts, we've seen big appliances companies work with apps and software platforms such as Innit, SideChef and Yummly

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These partnerships ultimately want to create an experience in the kitchen that makes it easy to plan what you're going to cook, automatically order your groceries and have them delivered to your home, and guide you through the steps of making a recipe. And they could make it easier for you to become more interested in connected kitchen appliances if they work with apps with which you're already familiar.

First published Oct. 8, 10:15 a.m. PT.
Update, Oct. 9 at 11:30 a.m. and Oct. 12 at 10:30 a.m.: Added highlights from this year's show.