The first attempts at a networked kitchen failed miserably when the Web hit the scene eight years ago. One problem was the public wasn't ready. But precious little was done to figure out how people could really use the Web in the kitchen.
The Internet Home Alliance formed in October 2000 to research these issues and this spring came out with its first test pilot of a networked kitchen. The new kitchen, called Mealtime, will be installed in 20 homes in the Boston area. All participants are families with Internet access and at least two children.
Mealtime lets consumers manage their daily meals either over the Web or a wireless application protocol (WAP) cell phone. The pilot kitchen will have Whirlpool Polara ranges with network interface cards, refrigerators with wireless Web tablets, Hewlett-Packard printers, and Web-based Icebox entertainment centers complete with a TV, DVD/CD player, Internet access, and FM radio. Sears will install the equipment, and IBM will supply gateways and systems integration.
Under one potential Mealtime scenario, a consumer could put a casserole in cool mode in the Polara range at 7 a.m. and set the oven to turn on at 5:30 p.m., roughly a half hour before he's slated to come home that evening. The system can be programmed to notify the consumer five to 10 minutes before the oven turns on. If the consumer still plans to be home by 6 p.m., he can use the Web or WAP phone to tell the oven to stick to the plan. If he runs late, he can reset the oven remotely.
Visit www.internethomealliance.com for more information on the Mealtime pilot.