Just over a year ago, I was privately shopping for a brand new kitchen. During the IFA tour last year, it quickly became clear to me: as tech-savvy as I am, it won’t be a really smart kitchen. The reason: each maker cooks their own soup, just to keep up the kitchen pun. And let’s be honest: who will buy a stove, oven, dishwasher, range hood, refrigerator, and maybe even a washer and dryer from the same manufacturer? Not to mention the costs.
Who will buy all the devices from one manufacturer?
The rule is rather: the oven is bought from a manufacturer like Siemens, the refrigerator maybe from Samsung or Liebherr, the extractor hood is a necessary evil or a designer product depending on your personal attitude, but it is mostly not smart. . And anyone who wants a decent washing machine will quickly end up at Miele. If the four devices mentioned are “smart”, I have four applications on the cell phone. But that doesn’t mean the oven or hob will tell the range hood to turn it on or off, please. It also doesn’t mean that the refrigerator will go into vacation mode when I tell my smart home system that I’m away for too long. At best, it means I’m extremely upset that I regularly use the wrong app, as long as I still do.
Since the kitchen installation was still delayed and I had not ordered many appliances, my hope was “Everything will be better with IFA 2019”. After all, the topic of smart homes has reached the masses, mostly due to a green rethink. In fact, it seems that many things have improved. A brief tour of the aisles of kitchen manufacturers at IFA.
Smart Kitchen: A Short Tour of IFA
At sister brands Bosch and Siemens (BSH) I see a large board with third-party systems that BSH devices can connect to. That pleases the tech editor. The devices seem to be able to connect to numerous third-party systems that many smart home users have at home. We will come back to that.
Samsung SmartThings is also a partially open system in which you can integrate some external components like Philipps Hue but of course your own kitchen appliances. The Samsung Family Hub, the refrigerator that’s supposed to serve as a smart home hub, is really smart. However, the price is less smart. At Samsung, however, you probably don’t want to see other kitchen manufacturers on their own system.
And Miele? With smart devices, I ask Alexa when my dishwasher is ready and if the refrigerator is open. You don’t really feel smart. To close, I have to get up myself. After all, as an employee at the trade fair booth tells me, Miele can connect to Conrad Connect and the Busch Jäger Smart Home app. None of the really conventional systems. Only afterwards does it become clear that Miele is apparently also cooperating with Telekom. To a Liebherr refrigerator stand, people prefer to trust IFTTT, a third-party service that is geared more toward digital nerds than the average consumer.
Let’s go back to Siemens again. Magenta Smart Home, digitalStrom, iHaus, Conrad Connect or innogy – Siemens is promoting these systems as partners at IFA. That interests me and I look at the Telekom compatibility list to see if my future oven is really there. But surprise: Siemens ovens don’t even appear on the list. And with Siemens on the website, on the actual Home Connect page, not even Telekom is listed as a partner. And none of this was a problem, I was assured at the booth, I just had to make sure my Siemens appliance was equipped with Home Connect. Now I am extremely insecure.
A call to manufacturers and platforms
So dear kitchen appliance manufacturers, nothing will happen to the smart home or better yet the smart kitchen. Do yourself and your customers two big favors: Be more transparent about what is possible with which device and what is not. Open up to smart home platforms. And above all and with all the competition: stop thinking about territory. Just because a customer buys your refrigerator does not mean they will also buy your oven. It doesn’t help to ban the devices from working digitally with each other. Customers think differently.
Certainly: I will never get all the functions that the original manufacturer app can actually do through a third party system. It’s really not to be expected that Telekom will integrate frozen muffin baking for an oven into its system. And a camera in the refrigerator is not a smart home. However, it would be desirable for my Hue lights to flash when the oven is ready or for me to receive a push message on my smartphone when it comes out of the refrigerator. And the customer would certainly prefer to do it on a central system rather than bolting on ten construction sites.
Smart Kitchens Conclusion at IFA 2019: We are still a long way from a truly smart kitchen, but something is happening. That gives hope. If you want or have to buy new devices now, let me tell you: Don’t make your decision dependent on whether the devices are communicating with each other. If anything, make sure devices are as open as possible towards smart home platforms. And only use IFTTT if you feel comfortable using it.
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