Smart kitchen ecosystem that prevents cooking fires

Overview
Type
Product & Service
Year
2017-2018
Role
Project management, industrial design, ideation, concept development, graphics and prototyping
Duration
7 months
Client/Partner
Safera/Aalto University
Team
Abdelhadi Najih, Alexandra Romano, Allie Gallagher, Amal Ishfaq, Jingzhou Ou, Mattheus Fernandes, Muyi Tao, Teruhisa Yamamoto, Pravesh Chand
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Background
The client asked the team to innovate in the kitchen, revolutionise the cooking experience, and keep it safe at the same time. But, what does this mean? That was the first thought after looking at the brief. 
Safera is a Finnish company that was launched in 2007 and specialises in devices designed to ensure fire safety while using induction stoves. As the leader in both sales and performance of the stove guard industry, Safera offers a unique blend of innovation and practicality in all of its products. The stove guards work by disconnecting the power from the stove if it detects that the temperature becomes high enough that it may cause a fire. Safera offers a large range of products that include this main feature as well as additional features and designs such as battery operated models, various colours, and childproof locks. Currently, the device needs to be installed by a certified electrician. Our project prompt was to create a product that would enhance the overall cooking experience.

Safera asked the team to improve consumers’ life by enhancing the experience of the cooking process and keep their kitchens and homes safe from cooking fires. This is what the team set to solve.
Approach
In the research phase it was important to gain a broad understanding of the kitchen environment, what happens within the kitchen space, how people use the space and what experiences the user goes through in that same space.
After some desktop research and an intensive 6-hour workshop (PD6 - PD6 Product Development in 6 hours), it became clear that the aim of the project was to design a new solution that could enhance cooking experience by making cooking fun. It was also decided to integrate IoT and Safera’s current technology in order to innovate their current product portfolio, increasing interaction and enjoyment.​​​​​​​

The team had the opportunity to collaborate with a design firm with expertise in innovation and human-centred design. In addition, one cooking workshop was organised in order to observe the participants and their cooking habits.

To understand the market around consumer electronics, smart home systems, and particularly, kitchen safety devices, the team went to Las Vegas to attend CES, the biggest consumer electronics show in the world.
Based on both research and workshops, it was possible to conclude that an ecosystem of devices connected through smart connectivity was the right path to take.
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The idea that connected devices can share enough information and functionality with each other for users to start a task in one device and finish it in another was the foundation of a new device ecosystem. Through Internet of Things (IoT) it would be possible to connect to any device or appliance.
Sensor Unit

After collecting all relevant data from research, part of the team went to the drawing board and started working on the sensor unit - the main device of the ecosystem. Ideation sessions were conducted in order to discuss and brainstorm about the features, the components, the casing, and the user interaction with the product. The objective was to design a product that would be simple, user friendly, contemporary and iconic, an object that would be easy to recognise in a kitchen, anywhere in the world.

Sketching and prototyping session.

CAD model of chosen concept for sensor unit.

Sensor unit prototype made in CNC machine.

Smart Knob

The idea for the development of the smart knob took place after part of the team visited CES conference in Las Vegas. From what it was gathered, the future of the kitchen is tied together with an environment of smart devices. Considering this factor, during one brainstorm session the team came up with the idea of the smart knob as being part of our connected kitchen environment. The smart knob is a safety device connected to our sensor unit that allows the user to turn off the gas stove remotely. 

First version of smart knob mockup/prototype.

CAD model of final  version of smart knob prototype.

Outcome
SouChef ecosystem includes a temperature sensor unit, smart knob and an app, all connected to a cloud server via wifi and bluetooth. 
SouChef ecosystem includes 3 components: a temperature and motion sensor unit; a smart knob for gas stoves; and an app, all connected to a cloud server via wifi and bluetooth. The user interacts with the product via SouChef’s app, or through voice control via Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

The project aims to integrate IoT and Safera’s current technology in order to innovate the product. The focus was on increasing interaction and enjoyment while still maintaining the fire safety feature.
It was important to focus on our target consumers' needs such as convenience, instant gratification, and incorporation of technology in order to enhance their cooking experience.
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Reflection
Before designing action plans for the project, we had to understand what people thought about the kitchen space and their experiences in the kitchen environment. During the research phase, the most challenging aspect was to understand the needs of the users. There are so many users from different cultures with so different needs that it was hard to narrow it down to something more concrete. This is why our research phase took longer than expected. We had to be sure that we were solving the right problem, without overdoing it with a complicated solution. I believe that this aspect made a huge difference in our project.

In addition to the workshops and surveys, maybe we could have spent more time doing ethnographic research and interviewing people in their homes. Even though, most of us cook, this might have given us a different perspective and could have helped us to understand the behaviour patterns in the kitchen a bit better. I strongly believe that we must involve the stakeholders in the decision-making process. Only this way we will be able to capitalise the consumer’s inspiration, and potential, creating quality products and services that contribute to people's health, safety, happiness and well being.

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