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Ok, say you were to rank all of the important activities of life: work, play, exercise, sleep, sex, eating.

While the results may vary by age, there’s no doubt that most of us would put partaking in food and drink as one of the most important. After all, not only is eating necessary to live and something we do three or more times a day, it’s something most of us often find immensely enjoyable.

But it’s even more than that.  Consider all the various aspects of eating: the cost, the nourishment and health impacts, the social nature of eating.

And then there is the act of cooking itself. Whether you view it as a mundane task, a hobby or an art form, it’s something many spend a considerable amount of our life doing and learning how to do.

So it’s not surprising that with food being so all-consuming (apologies) that the kitchen is fast becoming a hotbed for innovation in the Internet of Things era.  Companies big and small are starting to apply a combination of smart apps, cloud, sensors and other technologies to make the kitchen more responsive and intelligent.

Here are a few examples:

Smart Appliances

No matter what the kitchen appliance, chances are one of your favorite white goods manufacturers has released a “smart” version that is connected and controllable via an app. Samsung, LG and others have Wi-Fi connected fridges, GE has a smart stoveWhirlpool WHR +2.04% will help you remotely clean your dishes, and Crockpot and Belkin can help check in on that stew you’re making from work with a connected Crockpot.

Quantified Cooking

Combine a sensor-enabled scale with a smart app and big data and what do you get? Quantified cooking. The inextricably linked nature of cooking and health have made food choice as much about monitoring the impact on our bodies as it has about simple sustenance, which has meant the arrival of numerous new devices that help us measure and quantify exactly what we are putting in our bodies. From connected cups to smart scales, it’s possible to now know how much and of what each food item has.

Expertise In a Box

Used to be you’d have to spend a significant amount of time and resources to be able create gourmet or specialty foods from scratch at home . However, with the arrival of connected cooking devices, channeling your inner Gordon Ramsey is becoming easier by the day. Whether its app controlled sous vide cookers or smart thermometers, technology is helping to bridge the gap between average folk and a trained chef. Heck, you can even become a brewmaster in your own home nowadays with a beer brewing appliance.

So take note everyone who eats (I’m assuming that’s most of you), things are a-changing. How we cook, measuring what we eat, the cleaning and storing of our food all are about to change significantly over the next decade in the Internet of Things era. The application of mobile, cloud, sensors and other enabling technologies are being embraced today by both big appliance makers and and new disruptors who are on a mission to reinvent the kitchen.

This post was first published in Forbes.

Yesterday I had a chance to catch up with Kevin Meagher (pronounced “Mar”), the VP and General Manager of Lowe’s smart home group.

It was a wide ranging conversation in which we talked about the rollout of Iris, how consumers perceive the smart home today, and what Lowe’s has learned about how to sell smart home products at retail. 

I also asked Meagher about Bluetooth Low Energy.  The Lowe’s Iris hub does not include the technology which, to be fair, makes sense since the company spec’d the device out three years ago when BLE wasn’t really yet a thing.

Now, however, that’s changed, so I wanted to know where he and Lowe’s stood on the technology since many newer devices in categories like locks, smart bulbs and cameras are integrating Bluetooth LE.

His answer? 

"It will be in our next hub."

When, I asked?

"Late Q1 of 2015."

Asked and answered!

Another interesting part of the conversation was about the company’s agnostic approach to hardware and smart home. Meagher made it clear that they will not only sell Iris compatible hardware, but also will sell smart home gear that works with other systems, even devices compatible with Wink/Home Depot’s smart home platform.

Makes sense. The reality is that there’s a significant amount of balkanization in the space, and given that most consumers are still in the learning phase about the smart home, one of the worst things the industry could do early on is create confusion and ill will by selling lots of incompatible gear. 

This is not to say that Lowe’s having a fairly open approach to which systems it sells through retail will avoid the problem completely. I still think the smart home industry face some customer confusion and bewilderment at all the options and standards as it becomes more mass market, and the biggest irony here is the arrival of about three or four new “standards” in the last few months - all with the proclaimed aim of trying to solve the problem of too many standards - will very likely contribute to the confusion. 

Meagher and I talk about this as well.

In general, it feels to me that he and Lowe’s had a very sensible and thought-out approach to selling consumer IoT and smart home gear at retail, so I suggest you give the conversation a listen to hear what he has to say.  You can do so by clicking play below, downloading the podcast or subscribing to the Smart Home Show in iTunes

Guest: Dan Martell, CEO of Clarity.FM

This is part two in our look at the future of work. If you’re a consultant, freelancer, analyst, or someone who charges by the hour for their expertise, you should listen to this podcast. Things are changing as new marketplaces enable folks with deep expertise to connect with those who are willing to pay for it and charge down to the minute for this knowledge.

You can learn more about Clarity.FM at, you guessed it, www.clarity.fm

You can listen to more NextMarket Podcast - and find out where to subscribe - atwww.technology.fm/nextmarketpodcast/

Follow Mike on Twitter and tell him your thoughts, suggest guests and more!twitter.com/michaelwolf

Guest: Rach.io’s Chris Klein

Is your sprinkler system dumb? Maybe it’s time to make it smart. Rachio builds a Wi-Fi connected sprinkler/irrigation controller and we talk to Chris Klein about the product, what this means and get a little of the story behind this Colorado based startup.

You can find out more about Rachio at www.rach.io

Subscribe to more Smart Home Show at www.technology.fm/thesmarthomeshow/

Guest: Mark Walters, Chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance

A whole lots been going on in the smart home world lately, including a whole bunch of new tech standards and protocols. One that’s been around for a while, Z-Wave, is in millions of homes today and is the key networking tech for many smart home systems.

We catch up with Mark to talk about the state of Z-Wave, talk about some of the new standards and where he sees Z-Wave going in the future.

You can find out more about Z-Wave at www.z-wavealliance.org/

You can subscribe to more Smart Home Shows at www.technology.fm/thesmarthomeshow/

Earlier this week, I had a chance to chat with Thread president Chris Boross.  

For those of you who don’t know about Thread, it’s a new wireless networking protocol and industry association that was launched last week. The protocol is a mesh technology, uses 6LoWPAN, and is built on top of the IEEE 802.15.4 PHY/MAC layer.

And while the new organization didn’t really mention any other standards by name, there’s no doubt that, in some ways, you could say Thread is competitive with all of those out there today currently aiming at the IoT and smart home: Z-Wave, Zigbee, low power Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy.

Not that an upstart new wireless standard will derail the freight train that is Wi-Fi or BT LE, but I do think that it’s interesting that Wi-Fi folks are taking note enough of Thread to at least plead with the industry to not get sidetracked with yet another new standard.

The Z-Wave and Zigbee folks were more direct, as you cans see in this post by Julie Jacobson over at CEPro.

But I digress. More on the different standards and how it will shake out for another day. This post is intended to point out some of the interesting things that Chris said in our conversation.  

Such as…

Q: Will you allow pre-certified Thread products into market?

Chris: Potentially, that is something we could do. That would depend. We would have to make sure those products could be software upgraded in the field. 

Q; Is Thread based on Weave? 

(I’d asked if Weave, a technology created by Nest, is the foundation of Thread as many actually believe.)

Chris: “Weave is separate from Thread. Weave and Thread are different technologies. Nest products today run a version of Thread in some of in them. Weave is a separate thing that is outside the scope of Thread.”

Me: “But you are running a version of Thread in your thermostats (today)”

Chris: “That’s correct.”

Q: Can you run Zigbee and Thread on the same piece of silicon simultaneously? 

Chris: It really depends on the chip itself. Some chips can run two network stacks simultaneously, some can’t. Product manufacturers can decide based on the chips what they want to use, but it is possible to attach to two separate 802.15.4 networks in parallel. 

I’d suggest you listen to entire podcast discussion to hear Chris’s full answers about these topics and others. You can download the podcast, subscribe in iTunes (recommended) or RSS (also recommended) or just click to listen below using the Soundcloud player.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi Michael, you mentioned in your last nextmarket podcast that you have been interviewed about podcasts, podcast history, etc. Can you put up a link to that interview? Would love to hear it. Thanks and keep up the good work -- Giovanni
nextmarket nextmarket Said:

Hey Giovanni - not sure if you’ll get this since Tumblr messaging is confusing to me, but it’s a great idea - I’ll see if I can repub Ryan’s podcast in my NextMarket feed… Stay tuned…

It’s a hits-driven business. Nest, Dropcam, Kevo and others are bringing consumers into the smart home market.

I talked to Zach Supalla to hear about what Spark OS is all about. Check it out!

If you sit in the board room of a retailer of home electronics, home improvement products or pretty much anything that uses batteries, chances are one of the topics of discussion over the past few months has been the Internet of Things.

Just look around if you don’t believe me. Home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, office retailers like Staples, big box retailers like Best Buy and even old-school retailers like Sears are all ramping up their efforts to play in this space.

So, why all the sudden interest in making our homes and everything around us smarter?

New Categories, New Business Model

With increased competition from the Amazon.com’s of the world, the decade-long shift towards a new world order in which every home and personal system talks to each other and is controllable by a smartphone represents an opportunity to enter new categories or reinvent old ones.

In the old model, a sale in a given category such as watches, lighting, TVs or sprinklers was an isolated event, unrelated to the other. In an Internet of Things world, this changes. Someday your watch will talk to your TV, which may talk to your lights and even possibly control the watering of your lawn.  As a consumer, this means that one purchase decision has implications for another purchase decision, and at some point you find yourself not simply buying a random hodge podge of stuff but instead investing in a system of interconnected products that work in concert to organize, simplify and better your life.

Hold The Utopia, Please

Granted, it’s a utopian vision we’re talking about here, one some say may never materialize. A problem looking for a solution, some might suggest.

Maybe, but the big investments being made by large technology players such as Intel, Google and Apple, not to mention those big consumer product manufacturers such as Philips and GE, tell a different story. All are working very hard towards a day where the ‘solution’ of an interconnected, smart world is good enough to convince consumers maybe they did indeed have a problem.

But why retailers? After all, technology and product companies are the innovators when it comes to technology, and retailers just move product.

Not so fast. As suggested above, in an IoT world device purchases are not made in a vacuum, but instead could become an interdependent chain of decisions where consumers start looking at boxes to see if their device is part of a broader system.  Maybe that’s HomeKit, Android, Wink or WeMo, but at this point in the game retailers are asking why shouldn’t it also be them?

Lowe’s is a good example. Early on, they started selling their smart home hub and would group all those devices that work with the device in one place near the front of the store. They were educating the market, but the broader vision is to someday have every aisle filled with products that say “works with Iris”, essentially creating themselves a consumer purchase pipeline for years into the future as consumers look to grow their collection of smart “things”.

And let’s be honest, not for a minute does any sane retailer think they’ll replace Apple or Google in lives of the consumer, but when devices like Staples’ new Connect Hub has the ability to connect to multiple types of smart home networks AND likely work with technologies like Apple’s HomeKit someday, it’s a sign that maybe the future Internet of Things land grab may have enough waterfront property for more than just Big Tech to participate.

This post was originally published in Forbes.