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CES: The kitchen reinvented

Next week’s CES expo will reveal just how deeply smart tech is invading the kitchen, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

The voice-activated coffee machine is so last year, if exhibitors at next week’s CES tech expo in Las Vegas live up to their promises.

Now, it’s all about the culinary experience, along with creating an ecosystem of appliances.

One of last year’s stand-out exhibits, Gourmia, encapsulated the power of voice control, showing how Google Assistant could take the pain out of figuring out the controls of pressure cookers and coffee machines. The wake phrase “Hey, Google” took over from the “On” switch, and the techie’s life would never be the same again.

This year Gourmia says it is redefining the smart kitchen with both its mainline products and an expanded IoT platform, featuring multiple kitchen appliances connecting to a single app on iOS or Android. It’s also added Amazon’s Alexa to its voice integration, and promises more than 200 “countertop kitchen electrics and gadgets”. (visit www.gourmia.com or booth #17315 at the Las Vegas Convention Center) to learn more.

Gourmia’s rival at CES, Brava, is more about the food than the controls. It will demonstrate a new smart countertop oven that it claims “is the fastest oven in the world and cooks food twice as fast as your traditional oven”, with the ability to go from 0°C to 260°C instantly. The Brava Oven, it says, “is shaping the next era of in-home cooking through the power of its ground-breaking, patented technology that uses infrared light as an energy source to make delicious, homemade food” (visit international.brava.com or booth #43970 at the Sands).

Appliance giant LG Electronics is not standing aside for these kitchen upstarts, though. It says it “will reveal the next phase in the development of the smart kitchen” at CES 2019 (visit www.lge.com or booth #11100 at the LVCC).

“Better integration of kitchen appliances, such as ovens, into the connected home will be a key factor in making the smart kitchen more attractive to consumers,” it said in a pre-show announcement.

Partnerships, said LG, will play a key role in creating a better culinary experience, and it will be demonstrating this principle in the company of Drop, the developer behind the Drop KitchenOS platform.

It made it sound far easier than it probably is in the real world: “When the user selects a recipe through Drop, the platform seamlessly informs LG appliances of the choice and automates elements of the cooking process, such as automatically preheating the oven or adjusting time, temperature and cooking mode based on the recipe. With deeper collaboration with an expanded offering of smart kitchen partners, LG’s connected smart kitchen collection of ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers will work together to help simplify the task of food preparation as well as meal clean-up.”

Chances are, the crowds will be more focused on a beer-making machine, LG HomeBrew, that LG will be launching at CES. Last year, a free beer stand was one of the most popular attractions at the show.

For the more serious kitchen, LG will also show off a smart kitchen portfolio that features the LG InstaView ThinQ refrigerator and LG QuadWash dishwasher. The two form part of the same ecosystem as the smart oven:

Once the right dish has been identified on the fridge’s embedded screen, the recipe can be sent from the refrigerator to the oven, which begins preheating to the right temperature. After cooking the meal, an EasyClean feature in LG’s combination wall oven removes any food residue that might have splattered on the interior.

“Finally, the same smart recipe will inform the LG QuadWash dishwasher of the optimal setting to ensure spotless cleaning of the dishware and utensils that were used to enjoy the delicious meal.”

Yes, we all know that gadgets don’t cooperate that seamlessly in reality; the true challenge comes long after the near-laboratory conditions under which the appliances are demonstrated at CES – once customers have plugged in such appliances at home.

LG promised that won’t be the case.

“Technology is making the kitchen more and more complicated and our vision is to create an environment that is welcoming and stress-free so that families can enjoy the optimal culinary experience without having to eat out or order in,” said Dan Song, president of LG Home Appliance & Air Solution Company. “Through partnerships that tap into today’s more intelligent kitchen appliances, we’re able to deliver the smart kitchen experience that customers have been asking for.”

For a peek even further into the future of the kitchen, RoboBusiness will be hosting a full day conference track titled “Service Robotics Arrive in Daily Life” on Thursday, 10 January.

A session titled “Household Robots: Doing the Chores We Don’t Want to Do” will cover robots that do everyday chores, from vacuuming to lawn mowing and cleaning, as they become an integral part of the home ecosystem.

The culinary minded will, however, be headed for “On the Menu: Robots Cook Up Faster Food”.

“Diners demand efficiency and speed when they eat out,” said RoboBusiness. “As robots enter restaurant kitchens, they enable orders to be filled with speed, cleanliness, and customization. See an array of examples of how robots are becoming the next generation of chefs.”

It this is just too much tomorrow, the obvious good news is that traditional methods of cooking still work just fine, now and into the future.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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