K&B Digital Integration Trends

There were ample examples at the recent Design & Construction Week (DCW) show. I was there and these are some of my favorite examples of digital integration from the show floor.

February 28, 2014

There’s an excellent chance that you’re reading this on your smart phone or tablet, rather than on a PC or paper. Use of these sleek devices has exploded in recent years and now they go everywhere their owners go...including into the kitchen and bathroom.

Manufacturers are paying close attention and they are building digital integration into their products—some are even inventing products to fit the trend. There were ample examples at the recent Design & Construction Week (DCW) show. Combining the previously-sluggish Kitchen & Bath Industry Show and International Builders’ Show into one event, exhibitors and attendees showed up in force. I was there and these are some of my favorite examples of digital integration from the show floor.

Charging forward 

LG’s Hi-Macs and DuPont’s Corian, both popular solid surface brands, now offer charging stations built right into the countertop. Below the surface is a charging device. Above it, you could rest your phone or tablet on the top and charge it without cords. With Apple’s recent charging adapter upgrade, (and others bound to come in the not-too-distant future), that’s a nice benefit. So is the opportunity to go wireless when you charge your ever-draining devices. You’ll just have to be strategic where you locate the charger so that you can change its battery when needed.

Another charging option is JTech Solutions’ Docking Drawer. It can be built into a standard drawer to add standard and USB charging to your space. It is not currently GFCI-rated, so you must be careful about its kitchen or bath placement.

Shower power 

Kohler offered a new version of its Moxie Showerhead that streams both water and sound via a built-in Bluetooth-powered wireless speaker. The new model is a rain showerhead, so now you can be drenched in both water and woodwinds or Willie Nelson at the same time. Broan-NuTone built a wireless speaker into its bathroom fans, as well.

Now you’re cooking 

Dacor debuted its IQ 48-inch Dual-Fuel Range that can be operated from your iPhone or Android. It uses a remote cooking app that will even send you text messages when your meal is ready and turn it from “cook” to “keep warm” mode, (like a slow cooker, only bigger and more expensive). This is a follow-up to the brand’s IQ 30-inch Wall Oven, released last year, clearly showing how popular digital integration is with homeowners.

Another example of IQ’s wireless capabilities—and one we’ll see throughout the industry in the next decade—is the potential to add innovations after an appliance is already in the homeowner’s kitchen. I predict it will be used (long-term, at least) to trouble-shoot and reduce service calls.

Most of the higher-end ovens on the market today offer built-in recipe databases. What I like about IQ’s connectivity is the ability to download your own online favorites. For those who are constantly searching for new recipes on popular websites, this is a wonderfully user-friendly feature.

App-etizing offerings 

It’s hard to find a brand these days that isn’t developing its own app, and quite a few of the exhibitors had them, (Wellborn, Sherwin-Williams, Masonite, et al). One that I particularly liked at DCW was Vent-A-Hood’s. In addition to being able to use it to check the sound level of various hoods you’re shopping for—bet theirs are quieter—is the ability to design your own custom hood. I’m looking forward to when they get to the point of showing you the hood in your own kitchen.

Great expectations 

Digital integration shows up in ways beyond gadget connectivity, as well. It has dramatically influenced how we interact with controls of all kinds, and what our expectations are from them. For example, Delta Faucets showed off its new Temp²O technology that lets you see the water’s temperature on the showerhead or plate (depending on the model you choose) before stepping under the water. Besides being a fabulous safety innovation, it speaks to our new standards for information on demand.

It has also influenced our standards of what design can, and should, look like. We’ve come to expect a level of sleekness and gloss that has elevated even humdrum elements like electrical outlets and switches. No one wants an ugly white or gray plug interrupting their island panel or backsplash. Brands like Legrand’s adorne have made them stylish and more suited to today’s upgraded kitchens and baths. PR

Reprinted with permission from Gold Notes: Nuggets from the World of Residential Design, a design blog published by San Diego-based kitchen designer, author and industry consultant Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, at jgkitchens.com. ©2014

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