If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then technology is fast becoming the heart of the kitchen.
Cookbooks and handwritten recipe cards are increasingly being replaced by blog posts on tablet screens. And kitchen designers are taking note, with countertops that double as charging stations and provide places to store mobile devices.
Soon, those countertops may even contain wireless power sources for small appliances, letting home chefs blend and toast without plugging into a wall outlet. It’s a vision of the future that’s very much in sync with the needs of tech-savvy 21st century cooks.
FROM COOKBOOK TO TABLET
More and more frequently, Americans are using the Internet to find and share recipes. Websites like One tsp. and ZipList work like the recipe card file your grandma used, storing your favorite recipes and letting you type in your own. And when they run into trouble, today’s cooks watch cooking tutorials on YouTube and search for help with ingredient substitutions and failed recipes on message boards.
Naturally, that means cooks are bringing their tablets and phones into the kitchen, and leaving cookbooks on the shelf.
According to an Allrecipes.com survey of U.S. cooks who own mobile devices, 38% use a tablet in the kitchen, and 19% use a smartphone. Those numbers are rising every year, and that means new opportunities for integrating technology into traditional kitchen decor.
For instance, Belkin makes a cabinet-mounted tablet holder that’ll keep spills off your screen. Williams-Sonoma sells a sleek, stainless-steel tablet rest that matches your Viking range. And Pottery Barn offers an accessory that looks like a vintage breadboard but is actually a place to put your iPad while you check out Smitten Kitchen.
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A growing focus on tablets and smartphones means new kitchen designs not only have to take into account ovens and dishwashers, but touch-screens and keyboards.
“We’re seeing from a design-trends standpoint that connectivity is important,” said John Petrie, president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association and owner of Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
We spoke with Petrie at Design and Construction Week in Las Vegas in early February, where designers showed off their newest kitchen innovations — including extra outlets for charging phones and cubbyholes for storing them.
“We’re needing to design charging stations and a spot to be able to put our products and to charge our products to keep them going in the kitchen,” he said.
According to Petrie, today’s kitchen counter also doubles as a desk, where people can dash off an e-mail or take a conference call. New designs have to take into account that the work that gets done in the kitchen isn’t just chopping and mixing.
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The next step in kitchen connectivity is wireless power. At both Design and Construction Week and this year’s International CES, DuPont showed off a Corian countertop that could hide a Powermat wireless charging station — the same kind that’s been installed in Starbucks and McDonald’s counters.
“We think our material is particularly well suited to delivering that wireless charging into the home,” said Tom Perich, marketing manager for surfaces at DuPont. So, instead of plugging in your phone at the end of the day, you could leave it on a counter until the battery is topped off.
CHOPT THE WIRES
Perich said that countertops that charge devices wirelessly could be on the market as soon as this fall. But in the longer term, kitchen counters may eventually recognize and power small appliances.
According to Ran Poliakine, CEO and founder of Powermat, kitchens of the near future will feature cloud-connected wireless power stations that can tell the difference between a phone in need of charging and a coffee maker that needs 1,200 watts of power.
“Just place it on the kitchen counter, and the kitchen counter can identify that this is the coffee maker,” said Poliakine. “Then, when you’re done with it, you simply put the coffee maker in the dishwasher.” Since it’s wireless, you wouldn’t have to worry about exposing it to water.
It’s a future that’s not too far off: Haier showed off a wireless blender at last year’s International CES, and Poliakine’s personal kitchen has been wireless for five years.
“We need to do to power what Wi-Fi did to data,” he said. As counters get cluttered with more and more devices that need a place to plug in, the kitchen seems like a great place to start.
Courtesy of USA Today