iPad Poort Steals Home Plate in Kitchen Automation
By Charles McGlade (Vancouver June 23, 2017)
Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung are each confident of winning the home automation game, and are ardently pushing their ‘digital assistants’ onto our counters, to smartly move us along into their ecosystems. From there we’ll be buying their music, listening to their ads, summoning their services – all happily in their thrall and eager for more.
Each ecosponsor has introduced at least one of these Trojan middle-ware devices, native or partnered, to play well with others while singing the company song. It’s a long shot, that one of these giant firms will grab the whole pot of course, but these schemes are what CEO’s are paid to dream up, or follow. ‘Build it and they will come’ – and the crowds have gathered gamely.
But where is home plate going to be? Is this just for clutter collectors among audio and search engines – what about conventional web access? Will the Internet devolve to a throttled Trump mall?
Poort Technologies, a Canadian design firm, thinks the veterans will be heard from, and claims to have discovered home plate hiding in plain sight – right there beside the stove.
Poort’s designer Dwight Gilbert Jones recounts how the elusive nexus of kitchen automation appeared to him one day:
“I was working on a prototype to enclose residential defibrillators in 2011, and we decided that these new iPad tablets could provide the internal electronics and video display we’d need. I soon realized that, as enclosed devices, they could support much wider functions as fixed web terminals, and beautifully so if they concealed all cables and the ugly plugin itself. So there before us was the target – the facing, familiar kitchen outlet that watches us cook.”
To enable this approach Poort leaves the back-plate of its casing largely open, so that it can surround and fully enclose the outlet, single or double, concealing the low profile USB charger(s) and connectors that distinguish Poorts from simple iPad stands and kiosks.
Poorts become portable iPad instruments in their own right, that you can hang from two small screws anywhere or set on a coffee table as a TV controller. Poorts also fit the powerful 9.7” Samsung S2/S3 Series – so they might revive kitchen phones on both the iOS and Android platforms.
Why is our greasy kitchen outlet so strategic in home automation?
It’s true that the resulting enclosure is elegant and centrally positioned for controlling the game (it may be the umpire too…) but it’s the veteran players in Poort’s lineup card – 350 million existing iPads, many lying idle – that now strike fear into the middle ware barkers trash-talking in the infield. iPads have so far been discreetly quiet, or downright ignored in AI home automation, but now the old vets on the bench must be accounted for, legions of them.
These legacy iPad tablets that date from 2010 were once heralded as the computing format of the future, and are far more capable than recent voice ‘assistants’. They unequivocally provide full Web access without contrived ecosystem tunneling and walled garden destinations. They bring versatile Bluetooth for promising sound partners such as the Apple HomePod and Amazon Echo, and of course Siri is already listening, dutiful and patient, at point blank range.
Think iPad streaming via AirPlay and you have a vision of the future that’s already here. We will engage Siri or Google (Update: Google: Home BT Added!) across our bubbling spaghetti, while taking calls and enjoying any music or media we choose. It’s a level playing field where tablets settle in as the heavy hitters they were projected to be, when first introduced.
We can anticipate millions of under-used iPads emerging from the shadows – driving Netflix, iTunes and media we already own as independent free agents. iPads and their many 9.7″ copycats are an “installed base” that Jones, a longtime windows developer, maintains will overwhelm, by sheer legacy numbers any opportunistic newcomer offering proprietary tablets. “That iPad foundation begs for a role”.
Fixed iPads will progressively cannibalize industries such as retail kiosks and engineering controls as well, armed with a million applications that work reliably from a fixed wall or table instrument. Tablets are every-man’s window on the Web, from here to India. Drawing just 5V/10W, Poorts are perfect as efficient solar appliances in developing countries.
When asked if Poort was affiliated with Apple, Jones replied “No, we’re presenting the huge zombie army of legacy iPads for their own sake. iPads are declining in market share, sales are falling off, Apple is being driven to develop other concepts and products. As a designer, I see them as a grey eminence not quite ready for retirement, and like designated hitters in baseball – they can deliver real power.”
If home automation is in search of a platform ‘standard’ – as is now true in marine electronics – discreet tablet enclosures that free up counter space and tap into and hide outlets will be solid hole cards. These attributes provide an independent architecture that lets us insert our own DH when we choose to.
Those new players on rookie tryouts will continue to appear, but for now basic design and raw computing smarts will cover home plate. “Batter up!” – this game just got personal.
Charles McGlade firstname.lastname@example.org writes about communications innovation and design.
This article and images are freely distributable. Contact email@example.com for Poort demo units.