As I have mentioned before consumer IoT is not something we cover very much at 451 Research; my world is one of Industrial IoT with huge plants running complex tasks such as manufacturing goods or processing raw material.
Knowing what is happening in these environments, in order to control them safely and with efficiency, is based on forms of instrumentation that has existed for many years, long before the term IoT was coined.
Connectivity and yet more instrumentation brought by IoT clearly makes sense, providing the data gathered has some context. There is a consumer IoT item that I bought myself that really helps bring that into focus, so here is an analogy to ponder.
If you can’t stand the heat…
I do most of the cooking in our house which I find a very rewarding and interesting activity. I’m always looking to try new recipes, whilst maintaining a good set of repeatable favourites for the family.
Mostly the cooking involves simple saucepans, grill and oven but yes; we do have a slow cooker, a sous vide, air fryer, a bread maker (one by Heston) and even a tortilla press!
One of the key pieces of technology to make sure things are properly cooked is a thermometer. I don’t use it all the time, but a quick sample of a piece of roast meat is always worth doing when it’s a cut or type that I have not cooked before.
However, I recently upgraded, to what sounds like an over engineered solution, with an IoT cooking thermometer from Meater. For me this demonstrates the power that just a little bit more connectivity and instrumentation can lead to not only basic improvements, but whole new avenues of experience.
You said it was over engineered?
The Meater thermometer connects through Bluetooth to an app on my phone, so I can see the temperature of whatever is cooking. That in itself is not the clever part; it probably is the part that initially seems a waste of time when you can just open the oven and look at a dial.
The small wooden holder the thermometer sits in when not in use takes an AA battery and keeps the device charged. It also acts as a base station, sitting in Bluetooth range but relaying data to wherever the phone happens to be. Again, clever but could also be seen as a little over the top.
The real benefit comes from the fact that it is not one simple thermometer, it is in fact two of them. The device is split in two by a small piece of insulation which means that the majority of the thermometer is in the food but the piece sticking out is able to measure the oven’s ambient temperature.
So now I have two readings to look at on my phone. The first thing this highlighted was a slight difference in the actual temperatures of our ovens at home, due to use and wear, one operates a few degrees lower than its dial says. As you can see, now I have instrumentation on the device that is my means of production, which I get as a bonus in trying to instrument the thing being cooked.
The app also uses this information to predict when something will be cooked to the right temperature, as it can calculate the rate of increase against the ambient oven temperature. Now we have some predictive analytics, albeit very simple, but in context very effective.
When roasting meat there is usually a suggested resting time in a recipe, because food will continue to cook once out of the oven; also, as it cools it reabsorbs the juices making it tender. The app also calculates this time, you get told to take your roast out of the oven before it’s reached its ideal temperature. It then continues to monitor it until it hits it.
This change from just cooking meat for ‘n’ minutes as per the label, to now cooking to the exact temperature, leads to significantly better and consistent results. I had thought it would be mostly with red meat that I would find the benefit, but I regularly use it on chicken breast and have found that they are much nicer, and usually cook a little quicker than the instructions suggest.
One thing leads to another
This new instrumentation allows me to improve the quality of the finished product and understand the state of the equipment used to manufacture it. And that’s just with two data points, connectivity and minimal processing.
We often refer to IoT being able to bring new business models. The analogy continues here in that I have now extended the menu for special occasions. I had always thought of trying to cook a Beef Wellington, but the worry of using an expensive cut of meat and not being able to check on it due to its pastry coating meant I had never bothered. Now with the Meater it is very easy to be assured of the end result!
It almost feels like cheating at cooking, but there are so many other things a budding chef has to cope with, that having this little bit of confidence and safety has been really enjoyable.
Of course, in industrial terms this is a brownfield add-on solution, augmenting what is already there, and over time ovens will do this for us. There are already connected ovens and even some that are a next level of smart such as the Miele Dialog.
This is able to understand what is cooking and even cook things at the same time, at different temperatures – even showing it can cook a whole fish in a block of ice, with the ice remaining frozen. I have not seen it work, not tried its food, but that sounds intriguing doesn’t it!?