Close your eyes and think of a smart car. What do you see? Is it a driverless, connected, super techy Tesla? Or is it Mercedes’ compact, 2-seater, nippy car?
Both are ‘smart’ but for very different reasons. One is about power, integration, technological advancement, increased efficiency and comfort. The other one is about flexibility and the ability to adapt to challenging and fluid contexts.
Repeat the exercise but replace ‘car’ with ‘kitchen’. What kind of smart kitchen do you see?
Right now, most smart appliance manufacturers seem to focus on the Back to the Future scenario. They are pushing standalone devices packed full of tech which will transform the kitchen in a futuristic and productive space. We have the impressively large Samsung Home Hub, a plethora of kitchen assistants (from Echo to all sort of kitchen focused speakers and tablets) and the more pedestrian ‘smartified’ appliances: internet enabled washing machines, microwave ovens etc. The typical smart kitchen ad portrays a vast kitchen with impressive looking smart devices dotted around.
But what happens when the kitchen shrinks? Trend Monitor (1) reports that the average kitchen size in the UK is down to 1935 levels at 13.4 sqm. And there is very little reason to believe that this trend will change anytime soon.
Developments like the shipping container block in Johannesburg or the capsule hotels in Tokyo point to a depressing future of ever smaller homes which call for a more modular and flexible approach to furniture and appliances in order to save space. The smart kitchens these consumer need are more like the Mercedes Smart car than the all singing and dancing current Tesla approach. But for now, the smart appliance market seems to prefer to look the other way and keep pushing the same large appliances that take up a lot of space and need serious resources to run.
A possible solution to all this could come from the melding of the two meanings of smart. Kitchen appliance manufacturers could choose to put the connected, Internet enabled kitchen in the service of maximising space and efficiency.
Constantin Popa is a Research Manager at Bryter, a UK and US based market research and insight agency specialising in technology research. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org