Takeaways from CES 2020

By Kevin Yu

Every year at CES, the food tech footprint seems to get larger and larger. We witness incredible advancements to appliances that are already household staples. We see new appliances entirely. There’s even technology that you can physically taste. While the long lines to try Impossible’s latest and greatest were tempting, our team had a tight schedule to stick to. After an eventful few days in the desert, and a quick stint in Chattanooga, Tennessee for Project Voice, I’ve finally taken the time to decompress and reflect on the CES experience, and I’m excited to share a few of my observations and takeaways with you.  

1. Cooking is an important--if not the most important--use case for Voice technology
Alexa, Google, and Bixby all love helping out in the kitchen. Wherever we saw voice technology featured, there was a refrigerator and oven within reach. The use case is a no brainer, and we were thrilled to see that experience prominently displayed throughout CES.

Voice technology lends itself so well to the cooking journey. Unlike simple tasks like listening to music or turning on and off lights, voice technology supports several aspects of the home cooking journey in a dynamic way. Order groceries, browse recipes, control kitchen appliances, learn cooking skills. Home cooking allows voice technology to truly shine. And what's more, people need to eat everyday! It’s a repeatable in-depth use case that builds the habit of using a smart assistant.

In our private tour of the Google Assistant playground, we were impressed by the different experiences google highlighted, all culminating in the making of a delicious meal for guests with the help of the Google Assistant. We called up a recipe, turned on a blender, a timer, and the oven all using the Google Assistant.

2. We now have the technology to meaningfully connect the entire home
There’s no better place to experience the connected home story than CES. Several of our partners, including GE Appliances, LG, and Bosch Home Connect, built out activations that immerse participants in common household scenarios with smart and AI technology at every turn, making the mundane tasks of everyday life a little bit easier.

The practicality of the connected home technology was boldly apparent which is a turning point for these types of consumer products. For the first time, you see all the systems working together in a way that truly benefits the consumer. This is good news for the connected kitchen. As one of the most appliance and tech heavy rooms in the home, the opportunity for simplifying a home cook’s experience in the kitchen is significant.

As discussed in our presentation given at the GE Appliances booth, multimodal usage of technology allows consumers to seamlessly move about the home seamlessly managing their smart home on whatever device is most convenient. Move music listening from your phone to your voice assistant as you walk in the front door. Sort through recipe options on your smart TV from your couch. Review your grocery list from your kitchen hub as you check which ingredients you have available. Order your groceries through Alexa. The information you need access to can now follow you throughout the smart home. We see partners like Electrolux, AEG, and VZUG all making remarkable strides in advancing the connected home.

3. Not all technology is actually useful
When it comes to CES, you’re going to see a lot of “WOW,” that’s not always all connected to a meaningful “WHY?” It’s the nature of this type of tech show that compels companies to put forward their most futuristic and awe inspiring technology. No doubt, this type of technology captures the imagination and practical applications can develop from these initial previews.

But when it comes to practical consumer usage, I’m most excited about technology that is designed to support human interaction, rather than lessen it (i.e. robotic replacement.) Cooking is about bringing people together which technology itself doesn’t solve. Technology that makes cooking easier and more accessible gives more families an opportunity to cook together and sit around the dinner table together more nights.

4. Inventory management has arrived--for real this time
One of the most anticipated innovations for the kitchen has been inventory management. Home cooks can easily understand the benefits of tracking ingredient availability and quantities as a way to improve their current cooking process. It addresses two of a home cook’s biggest concerns: 1) How do I prevent ingredient spoilage? And 2) What should I cook for dinner?

While previous iterations of the hardware required manual entry of ingredients, our partners have now unveiled automatic trackers, with the most advanced scales to track quantities. This makes things much more practical, and paired with an integration with SideChef, can deliver recipe recommendations based on real-time inventory. This is the type of integration that will actually drive sales--a feature worthy of inspiring a kitchen makeover. This exact experience with SideChef was demonstrated at the Haier booth and really showed the power inventory management has on enhancing the home cooking journey.

The competition in appliance and food tech is fierce, that was made clear. As apparent in Michael Wolf’s event “Food Tech Live,” the industry is also certainly growing. Appliance brands are rapidly innovating, and when something new is shown at CES, brands have their own version of that innovation the following year. We are proud to continue to connect brands with the content from the growing base of 300+ culinary partners SideChef works with. Afterall, a user interface on an appliance does not create brand loyalty. Consumers look for practical and delightful experiences, and when it comes to kitchen technology, it’s about putting the technology to good use through beloved recipes.

Investing in unique and rich content is an absolute necessity to educate the consumer on product capabilities and winning the smart kitchen. This is where the brand shines through--the content gives these experiences a voice and a flavor.

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