The Indian Kitchen
Working closely with Preethi, one of India’s leading consumer durables company, Sosaley has started developing products that will introduce IoT into the Indian kitchen.
The Indian kitchen, compared to say a western kitchen, is more complicated in terms of usage. Multiple kinds of food are prepared using varying degrees of heat. Frying is very common as is using steam to cook food. One of the most common cooking vessels is the Pressure Cooker that is used to cook everything from rice to dal to potatoes. You should not be surprised if you see 4-6 gas burners working ceaselessly in the morning as breakfast, lunch and even portions of dinner are prepared.
In the morning, the kitchen is usually a hub of intense activities with cutting, frying, steaming, and cooking. In the middle of all this is the ubiquitous gas stove.
Controlling The Gas Stove
Housewives and professional cooks generally use instinct to control the amount of heat a stove delivers. They take a look at what is being cooked, maybe smell it a bit, and then instinct takes over. This comes from long years of experience and (maybe) having burnt a few dishes also.
The first question that comes to one’s mind is – what can a microprocessor do here? What functions can it perform that is today managed by the housewife with years of experience? Well, here are our answers and the challenge we gave to ourselves.
- To have sensors that will understand that a vessel has been kept on the gas stove. This will help avoid wastage of LPG.
- To have sensors that can count the number of times a pressure cooker’s whistle blows. This will help shut the gas stove on completion of a pre-determined number of whistles.
- Sensors to see that the stove’s burner (or hob) is clean and the flame is present. Again, this will help avoid the leak of LPG.
- A simple and dependable way of lighting the burner and controlling the quantum of flame that is delivered.
- A myriad other functions including alerts and other ways of attracting the housewife’s attention when needed.
We started the process by looking at the layout of a popular model – a 3 burner stove. We then ripped it apart and introduced microprocessor-based controls where possible. We faced some very tricky issues that we resolved quickly. We also solved multiple issues including delivering energy to the circuit without any connection to mains, and a way of recharging the batteries for 10 years or more. Of course, we are also talking about the whole system working in an environment where the temperatures could go to 200 degrees Centigrade.
The product is now ready for us to build applications and solutions for the Indian housewife.
The future is going to be even more interesting. With the basic control functions in place, how can we enhance the functions to make the life of the housewife less strenuous and more fun? Some of what we are thinking are the following:
- Can we get a large number of consumer durables in the kitchen communicating with each other? Can we make the grinder talk to the stove?
- Can we introduce a camera and some amount of AI to raise alerts and give suggestions to the housewife?
- Can we provide online cooking lessons where the app will help the housewife surprise her family with a new and tasty dish?
- Of course, over and above all this is the need for simplicity.