SMB - 'Ideal digital kitchen' a recipe for overkill

The Internet Home Alliance, having already needlessly networked our laundry rooms, will soon unveil its grand vision for the ideal digital kitchen.

Bet you didn't know you wanted a recipe projection system.

Backed by such household names as Whirlpool, Cisco, HP, Intel, Microsoft and the US National Association of Home Builders, the alliance will offer consumer survey data and the cook's tour of its futuristic kitchen at the 2007 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show on May 8 in Las Vegas.

The group's laundry initiative didn't do much for me, aside from inspiring one of my favourite headlines -- "Your washer's calling and the dryer's on IM" -- and I can't say I'm any more excited by the kitchen, at least based on a draft press release.

But it's your ideal kitchen, so you make the call. Here's how the release describes the various features (I'm saving the one I like for last):

Recipe Projection System. "Eight in 10 [of the 602 homeowners] surveyed said they cook for enjoyment, and 64 per cent do so at least several times per week. Consumers reported wanting a wireless recipe projection system that would allow them to look up a recipe online, or even say aloud what they want to cook [for example 'beef stroganoff'], and then have the recipe projected onto a surface in the kitchen from a small cabinet-mounted device."

Honestly now. Being someone who cooks primarily to keep the Department of Social Services from taking my children, I find it difficult to believe that even enthusiastic recreational cooks find this projection concept compelling. Of course, you can sign me up for any gadget that lets me say "beef stroganoff" and then see steaming plates of the stuff magically appear on my dinner table.

Energy Usage Monitoring and Control System. "Those surveyed reported wanting to monitor energy consumption by area [family room, swimming pool] and appliance [hot water heater]; to monitor energy use by circuit; to chart peak energy use times; to diagnose areas of wasted energy; and to calculate energy costs. This concept was most popular in the West, where California recently became the first state in the nation to impose an emissions cap on utilities, refineries and factories."

I live in the East, where Massachusetts recently became the first state in the nation to laugh uncontrollably at Californians who would have the time and inclination to monitor their energy consumption room by room. Get my children to turn off a few lights now and then; that will make me a happy digital kitchenite.

Home Control Station. "Consumers want a home-control station in their kitchen that allows them to manage their HVAC and security systems easily. They requested a screen where they can view the temperature inside and outside, adjust the thermostat on a touch pad and view live video of both the front and back of their house."

Are we talking kitchens here or prison guard towers? And trust me when I say that I'm no gadget guy, but my house does have one of those inside/outside temperature things that, well, tells me the temperature both inside and outside. They cost about $US15 at Radio Shack. And while ours is a 10-year-old dwelling in a modest neighborhood, it still features a touch-pad thermostat (although the AC croaked recently).

Universal Charging Station. "Consumers reported wanting to charge as many as three cell phones or PDAs simultaneously, regardless of brand or model. One-third of households reported that they keep their cell phones on the kitchen counter, and one-half said they keep their phone chargers there as well. Consumers would like a Universal Charging Station, so everyone can charge their phones in the spot where their phones and chargers are usually kept."

At first, I read that as the alliance wanting to equip my kitchen with a universal changing station -- yucksters -- which the alliance will have to excuse given that I have 5-year-old triplets who blew through some 25,000 diapers (yes, we kept count) before breaking that habit. As for a universal charging station? That this idea made the cut for the press release offers ample evidence that the kitchen of today is already pretty darn advanced, even if it is not yet ideal.

Wireless Internet Access. "Consumers reported wanting to have a wireless network in their home so they can have wireless Internet access in all rooms, including the kitchen. Twenty-nine per cent of all homeowners and 43 per cent of those remodeling their homes want to surf the Web while in the kitchen."

Hello? Is there something about these wishes that requires intervention by the Internet Home Alliance? Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is 2007, and I'm pretty sure you can have Internet access in the crapper if you're so inclined.

OK, if you've read this far, you must be dying to know which feature of the ideal digital kitchen meets with my approval. That would be:

Digital Calendar. "The survey found that the primary kitchen user is also the primary schedule keeper and a digital calendar was the most preferred concept of the 22 tested. Those surveyed reported wanting a calendar on a large screen that allows users to add appointments and post notes that everyone in the household can see and access, whether from the kitchen or via the Internet."

Where can I buy one?

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Paul McNamara

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