What is the Future of Kitchen Technology ?
The role of the kitchen in our homes has changed dramatically over the years. What used to be a space used simply for food preparation has now become the center of the home. Nowadays, cooking is accompanied by a greater variety of activities such as entertaining, socializing, dining, working, doing laundry, etc. As our use of the kitchen has changed, the technology used within it has had to adapt to meet our needs. No one knows what the kitchen of the future will look like, but with each new technological advance the realms of possibility are expanding. To find out what exactly we can expect in terms of technology in future kitchen appliances, Freshome spoke with Stefano Marzanothe new director of design electrolux, one of the world leaders in home appliances and appliances for professional use.
Home appliances have come a long way in recent years. What developments would you say have been the most game-changing and why?
YE. In addition to sustainability, lifestyle change is also one of the driving factors. More people live in cities and in less space; there are more single-person households, people travel and get inspiration all over the world, and they may also have less time. The kitchen has become the heart of the home for socializing and entertaining. Devices must be functional and easy to use. This is one of the factors driving the development of today’s smart and connectable home appliances. Another important factor is the growing interest in cooking. Many want to be chefs at home. So they also want some of the technology that professional chefs use. Electrolux is unique in having a leading position in both the consumer and professional segments. In our innovation process we put a lot of effort into transferring some of the technologies and knowledge between these segments.
As you said, sustainability and energy efficiency have been high on the agenda for some years now. How far will the next generation of home appliances go further and what kind of innovations can we expect to see in the coming years?
YE. I think we will see even more appliances that save energy and water. These too will increasingly have to be manufactured in a way that minimizes air pollution. Air and water in the home and in public spaces in many regions need to be cleaned and purified for use and consumption and this could have implications for future developments. In addition, more attention will be paid to recycled materials. The appliances of the future will also continue to be quieter, which is also an environmental issue.
Most home appliance manufacturers are already working on a new generation of home appliances. What progress is Electrolux making in this field? Are there any exciting developments we can expect to see from you in the near future?
YE. Electrolux has many exciting and innovative products in the pipeline. And more is to come. Electrolux now has the structure of what we call the “innovation triangle”. This allows R&D, marketing and design functions to work in synergy throughout the creation process, with an even clearer focus on customers and consumers. The key to Electrolux’s strategy is the continuous development of innovative and carefully designed solutions based on end-user insights. Now Electrolux will be able to bring more relevant and innovative solutions to market at a faster rate.
The connected home was a big topic at the recent Presentation of consumer electronics in Vegas though, The idea of Internet-enabled appliances has been floating around in predictions about the home of the future for a while. Is this future now becoming a reality?
YE. When this idea was initially floated, I think it was driven by the technology rather than the consumer. The technology existed but it was not relevant for the consumer to connect the oven or the refrigerator to the network. Since then, many things have happened. Now we have smartphones and we are connected online with our friends 24/7. When we are physically together with our friends and family, we most often meet in the kitchen. The time for Internet-enabled devices may have come, and there are already examples of this happening.
What effect will the development of Smart Grid technology have on our appliances?
YE. Smart grids reduce the environmental impact of the entire electricity supply system by avoiding demand in peak periods and reducing reliance on backup power from coal and diesel power plants. In this way, smart grids reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency. For the customer, smart grids will also provide opportunities for local monitoring and remote connections. They can have anything from new recipes, program updates, and software debugging to the ability for remote diagnostics and customer service. Electrolux is already involved in Smart Grid technology in several European countries, including Sweden.
Smart appliances are becoming more common as we see an increasing number of products on the market that are reactive and adapt to human behavior (such as TV systems that can recommend shows you might like based on your viewing habits). display, etc). Do you think we will see the same evolution in household appliances?
YE. We already see that development. For example, the user of a electrolux inspiro oven you just have to upload the content and press a button. It then calculates the precise combination of energy consumption and time needed to bring the food to the correct temperature. It also chooses the required cooking mode or combination of modes and specifies the appropriate rack for the content.
Every year, Electrolux hosts a global design competition open to undergraduate and graduate industrial design students who are invited to submit innovative ideas for the home appliances of the future. Have you come across any designs that you think could, or will, make it into production?
YE. In Electrolux Design Lab we are presented with many fantastic solutions from all over the world every year. Some of the designs have been an inspiration to us in bringing products to market. As long as the solutions are relevant to consumers, some of the products can definitely end up on the market.
The 2010 edition of the Electrolux Design Lab competition focused on creative solutions for compact homes. As you mentioned, populations are growing and houses are getting smaller, so what effect will this have on appliances?
YE. With urbanization, growing populations, and smaller spaces in our homes, appliances need to be even more efficient in size and performance. In Japan, for example, where living space is limited, Electrolux recently launched a vacuum cleaner that has similar performance to our vacuum cleaners in other parts of the world, but at the same time is particularly small in size.The writing for Electrolux Design Laboratory 2012 challenges design students to draw inspiration from professional experience creators, such as chefs, architects, interior designers, hotel designers, to design home appliances that provide a more complete sensory experience. Can you explain this?
YE. Chefs and creators use our appliances to achieve an even more satisfying final product: a total gastronomic experience. The final result has to be perfect in so many aspects that they have to visualize before starting. They have no construction plan to get there, but have to go with their feeling and experience. In that way, I think chefs are the complete designers. Therefore, designers must not only understand them. We can get a lot of inspiration from them, too, and we want design students coming into the Electrolux Design Lab to do just that – create home appliance designs that provide a fuller sensory experience. electrolux cube is an excellent example of this. Here, the ‘tools’ provided by Electrolux allow the chefs to create the best possible experience for the guests.
What developments would you personally like to see when it comes to household appliances?
YE. Being very interested in the kitchen and fascinated by Electrolux’s strong connections with chefs, I currently spend a lot of time exploring the interface between appliance design and the culinary world. I look forward to seeing even more professional technologies used in consumer products. I want kitchen appliances to be tools for the full experience of food, not just the taste, but also the smell, sound, and aesthetics. Below is a short animation showing the Electrolux Heart of the home cooking concept. It’s a thought-provoking vision of the kitchen of the future: an integrated solution that functions as a kitchen table, cooking surface and bar all in one.
Freshhome would like to thank Stefano Marzano for taking time out of your schedule to share with us your vision of future kitchen technology. We would like to know what you would like to see in the kitchen of the future when it comes to appliances. Leave us a comment below and share your vision with us.