March 08, 2013
| by Grant Clauser
In recent years we’ve seen more kitchen appliances with IP connections, built-in browsers and smart sensors that monitor every function. Those are cool, but for most connected homes, a high-tech kitchen involves more conventional home control systems, such as lighting, audio/video access, powered shades and communications system. Access to security/monitoring devices is also high on the list.
In most homes, the kitchen is the central hub of the house. It’s where people eat, chat on the phone, go over weekly schedules and talk with friends. Often people spend as much or more of their waking time in (or moving through) the kitchen than any other part of the house.
Anyone’s lifestyle can be greatly enhanced with entertainment, communications and convenience technologies in the kitchen. Wall mounted TVs and in-ceiling speakers allow people to enjoy entertainment in the kitchen without it taking up valuable counter space. Home automation systems, complete with wall-mounted touchpanels or keypads allow easy control over home systems like lighting, temperature and security. Internet-connected devices, such as iPads, let you research information, keep track of family schedules and communicate with others, all without leaving the kitchen.
When many people think of television in the kitchen, they think of those old portable TVs with antenna’s sticking out of the top sitting on a kitchen counter. Those days are gone. TVs in the kitchen can be as good as the TVs in the rest of the house, and a skilled integrator can easily rout your cable, satellite or FiOS service to any location you like.
The trick with a good kitchen TV is in how it’s mounted. You won’t want a flat panel TV on the kitchen counter, and most kitchens don’t have a lot of free wall space for wall mounts—plus, a fixed wall mount may not be visible from all parts of the kitchen. An articulated mount with a long arm allows you to position the TV for viewing anywhere in the kitchen. Our favorite kitchen TVs are the once that rise out of the counter on motorized lifts.
An FM radio, that allows you to keep up with news, school closings and light music, may be a standard in most family kitchens, but that’s so old school. A real connected kitchen needs to be included in a multi-room audio system. Speakers mounted on the ceiling will stay out of everyone’s way, while a dedicated touchpanel or even a smart phone can connect to the system for selecting music and other sources. Sources can include iTunes, Pandora, satellite radio, internet radio stations, or even old-fashioned FM radio. A good integrator can program you control system to automatically play your favorite news radio station in the morning and your favorite internet music channel in the evening.
Next to the home office, the kitchen is the most natural location for Internet access, but laptops get dropped off tables, spilled on or worse. A wall-mounted iPad provides all the Internet connection you could want—for news, recipes, Twitter updates … while being safely out of the way.
The kitchen is also the perfect place from which to have access to your security system, specifically for viewing security camera footage and system status. Want to know if someone is coming to the front door? A TV or, touchpanel or iPad can be integrated with a security system to allow you to view whatever you want or receive alerts.
Of course you want to be able to turn off the kitchen lights easily, but what about the lights in the rest of the house. Having access to light and shade control from the kitchen allows you to set the mood for any time of day, adjust light levels for different uses, conserve energy and give you a little peace of mind when you’re waiting up late at night for your teenager to come home from a date.
As the hub of the home, a kitchen should also have access to the homes control system, allowing easy control of things like window shades, lighting and thermostats. Many systems allow integration of family calendars, so weekly planning will be a breeze.
Check out the slideshow for some of the most integrated kitchens (and the homes they’re featured in) we’ve seen recently.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.