Tomorrow’s home: rise of the smart kitchen

Futurologists (yes, that is a real thing) have been trying to predict the future of the home for decades. Back in 1957, Frigidaire created “the kitchen of the future”, complete with IBM punchcard recipe file, rotating Lazy Susan-style fridge and “online” ordering via television. Now, with the unstoppable rise of smartphones and tablets, all sorts of web-enabled kitchen appliances are being predicted – some a little more George Orwell than George Jetson.

Frigidaire's kitchen of the future, 1957

Frigidaire created “the kitchen of the future” in 1957

Do you find it hard to keep up with the contents of your fridge? You know the scenario: you get up, pour yourself a mug of coffee, reach for the milk, take one whiff and – gag! Milk’s off, shop’s shut, no morning coffee and you get to work half asleep. The smart fridge of the future, however, will be able to monitor its contents using RFID radio tags and notify you when foodstuffs are past their use-by date or when essentials such as bread and milk are running low – even ordering in fresh supplies for you. Antibacterial agents within the fridge will extend food longevity while protecting you from illness.

Keeping track of your dietary needs and fitting meal planning into a busy lifestyle will also no longer be a problem. Your smart cooker will have the ability to recommend meals based on the contents of your cupboards and your dietary preferences, switching itself on remotely when you are a certain distance away so it is pre-heated to the optimum temperature and ready to use by the time you get home. And while you’re cooking, tiny sensors in your wooden spoon will tell you if the meal you’re making has the correct amount of each ingredient and if you’re following the recipe correctly.

Your washing machine, too, will be fully connected, detecting the correct programme for washing, drying and ironing your clothes. It will even be able to automatically call the repair man when a fault develops.

The kitchen of the future will also be energy efficient. Imagine an oven cavity which can shrink to the size of the food being cooked, avoiding wasted energy, and a fridge which can sense the optimum temperature for each item and cool it accordingly. Ultrasonic washing machines will operate without water, both saving energy and protecting fabrics.

So is a Skynet-style disaster in the offing? Will we be seeing herds of marauding, artificially-intelligent freezers on the rampage in the English countryside as smart dishwashers climb the Statue of Liberty? Or will the time-saving gadgets currently being predicted change modern life as we know it, just as the Internet and television did decades before?

Well, as with any new development, change is likely to happen gradually. However, we will start to see the first smart appliances appearing in the next few years – in fact some, like LG’s Smart ThinQ appliances, are already commercially available. It could be some time, though, before you are strapping on your personal jetpack and hopping on the hoverbus to work – just don’t forget to check the shopping list from your smart fridge!