The smart home has the potential to change how we live, by outsourcing menial tasks to a digital assistant and leaving us to get on with other, more important, tasks.
Nowhere is this more true than in the kitchen. In fact in homes with voice-assistant-enabled gadgets, almost half of us use them primarily in the kitchen. Surrounded by smart home tech, you can look up recipes, re-order supplies, stay safe, see who’s at the door and cook a meal to perfection, all without breaking sweat. Here’s how...
Learn from the pros
Cooking can easily become a day-to-day routine, which is a real shame when you consider the thousands of amazing recipes that are out there. The best bit is you don’t have to be a Michelin-starred chef in order to make a quick, tasty and creative meal. Why not create a list of new dishes you’d like to try on a smart display like the Google Home Hub or Alexa Show and then ask the speakers how to make them?
If you’re using a Google Home speaker simply say: “Hey Google, find me a chocolate brownie recipe” and it will list some from a range of approved partners including Food Network, New York Times and BBC Good Food.
Once you’ve found one you like it’ll take you through the ingredients and then the method step-by-step and you can pause then pick up where you left off at any time.
If you’re using Alexa, simply head to the App and then install a recipe skill like Recipedia or BBC Good Food. Then when you say “Alexa, ask Recipedia to find me a chocolate brownie recipe”, it will give you some options and then again will run through the recipe one step at a time.
Tackling a particularly technical piece of frosting on your child’s birthday cake? Simply ask any Google Assistant-enabled smart display and it’ll bring up a selection of YouTube videos that you can follow along with on screen.
Confused by measurement conversions? How much is a cup? And do you know your ounces from your grams?
Cut through the confusion and simply ask a smart speaker for instant conversions so no matter what the recipe says you’ll always feel like a pro. Say “Alexa/Hey Google, how many cups are in eight ounces?” and either assistant will instantly reply with the conversion.
Save time by cooking remotely
Making sure you use the right ingredients in a dish is just as important as the finished meal itself which is why preparation is so important.
Tiny mounted cameras on the inside of your fridge like the Smarter Fridge Cam mean that no matter which aisle of the supermarket you’re in, you can see a live picture of everything you have, and - more importantly - everything you don’t.
Street food staples like slow-cooked pulled pork no longer require specialist equipment or hours of patience. Instead simply pop the meat into a smart oven like Bosch’s Home Connect collection and you can leave the house knowing that your food will be cooked to perfection by the time you get home.
Instantly become a roasting perfectionist by using a smart oven like the Samsung’s Chef Collection which lets you pick from hundreds of pre-set recipes, entering the weight and type of meat and then sitting back as the oven does everything else for you.
Stay safe in the kitchen
Smoke alarms are vital in any home, but hearing it go off every time someone slightly burns their toast can become more than a little tiresome.
Wi-fi-connected smoke alarms like Nest Protect or the Yale EF-SD contain advanced sensors that know the difference between a bit of dust and a serious fire. Many of them also contain carbon monoxide sensors, giving you yet another layer of safety.
Worried you’ve left the iron plugged in? While many devices have safety cut-offs, connecting your iron to a smart plug from TP-Link or Hive will give you an extra layer of security and peace of mind by letting you see on your smartphone if you’ve accidentally left it plugged in and then turning it off with a press of a button.
Manage your household
For many families, the kitchen is the nerve centre of the house. It might be where you eat, chat, read the mail and make a note of upcoming events and celebrations.
The fridge becomes your calendar, your to-do list and your reminder to call the garage or book a dentist appointment.
However, rather than turning your fridge into a confused mass of post-it notes and magnet-held reminders, the latest smart fridges like Samsung’s Family Hub can offer something infinitely more convenient.
Digital reminders and to-do lists can be created on the fridge’s screen and then instantly appear on your phone, while shopping lists can be compiled on the screen and zapped to your phone ahead of the big weekly shop.
It works the other way too - a shared calendar through Gmail means lets the kids add events on their own phones and it’ll instantly appear on the screen for everyone to see.
This exciting technology is still in its early stages but expect to see it become far more commonplace over the next year.
Make homework fun
Need to help your kids or grandkids with homework? Let technology lend a hand. Ditch the physical revision cards and instead create an interactive quiz using your Amazon Echo smart speaker.
Using an online tool called Alexa Blueprints you can quickly and easily create a quiz by setting up your own questions and answers. Simply ask Alexa to start your quiz and you’ve got your very own personalised revision assistant.
Find out how to create your own Alexa Blueprint using our own Amazon Skills guide.
Never run out of those essentials
All of us have suddenly run out of essentials like razor blades, toilet paper and cleaning products in between the weekly shop, making an extra trip to the supermarket an inconvenient necessity. Amazon’s Dash button can help. Dash buttons allow you to restock on essentials literally at the touch of a button - each Dash is used to order a specific product and bears the logo of that item. Simply stick one on the fridge or another in the bathroom cabinet and when you notice you’ve run out of something, press it and Amazon automatically orders you some more.
Alternatively it’s just as easy to create shopping lists with your smart speaker, simply say “Alexa, create a list”, or “Hey Google, create a shopping list” and then simply name the items you want to add. Whenever you discover something’s run out just tell Alexa or Google to add it and it’ll then be available.
Stay in touch with the rest of the house
Instead of having to bellow "dinner’s ready" around the house, smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Assistant can also act as intercoms in different rooms. Simply set up ‘Drop In’ on your Echo device and then say ‘Drop in on home’ and start speaking. On Google Home simply say ‘Hey Google, broadcast dinner’s ready’ and it will send your message to every Google Home speaker in the house.
It's a branch of Murphy's Law that says the doorbell will always ring when you're least able to answer it, and if you’re in the middle of a particularly messy baking session the last thing you want to be doing is covering about six different surfaces in cake mixture as you clean yourself up and race to the door before your caller gives up.
Keep the family entertained
The kitchen is no longer just the place where we make dinner, it’s where we entertain friends, have wine-fuelled meaningful chats long into the night and where student hangovers are cured with steaming hot mugs of tea, bacon rolls and a spot of radio.
Listening to the radio in the morning is a ritual for many, and rather than having to own a dedicated radio and a speaker, smart speakers can become your new all-in-one solution. Simply say ‘Alexa, play Radio 4’ and it will immediately oblige.
Alternatively there are number of semi-smart DAB Radios such as the Pure Evoke C-F6 which forgo the voice-assistant but can connect to streaming services like Spotify.
While radio is the medium of choice for many, for others breakfast just isn’t breakfast without something to watch. Instead of making do with Freeview why not give yourself access to thousands of films and boxsets through Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Small TVs are now more affordable than ever and it’s easy to give them an upgrade by using smart TV dongles like Google Chromecast or the Fire TV stick. They plug into an existing TV and instantly give it access to streaming apps like iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and Amazon Prime. If you’ve got a Google Home or an Android smartphone you also get voice control.
If a TV is simply not feasible but you still want to watch a show while cooking or simply have the news running in the background then a smart display like Lenovo’s Smart Display boasts a large 10-inch display that’s perfect for kitchen viewing.