The Future of Domestic Food Tech

How can tomorrows products and services adapt to the evolving needs of the future home?

Image reference: NewTerritory owned concept.

We are spending more and more time at home. The percentage of people in the US and UK working from home nearly doubled in 2020.

Even as offices, schools, restaurants and bars start to reopen, some of us are reluctant to go back to the old ways of the 9 to 5 shift, forced to commute to sit with others, when we could be, and have been, working equally well from the comfort of our homes.

For others, the decision has been taken by our employers — whether back to the office, hybrid or fully remote, not everyone will be happy.

Regardless of one’s personal preferences, the majority of us will experience some kind of change in the way we use our homes and this of course will include how we eat and drink.

The home is evolving to become a multitude of spaces, which previously were public, shared and designed specifically for that use or function. It is our coffee shop for the first brew of the day or breakout espresso, it is the space of our watercooler gossip, it is our meeting room and our lunchtime workout location, our afterwork drinks spot and our date night restaurant.

With such varied uses, naturally we need to look at how our homes can fulfil these roles, providing our sanctuary, elevating us professionally, giving us space to breathe, celebrating and improving our health and wellbeing.

So how can one space be designed for our changing needs throughout the day and where does food and drink fit in? Going out to work, we enjoyed the variety of urban retail infrastructure when it came to eating — our favourite food brands and retailers a few steps from the office. Now that we are spending less time out of the house, how will this change how we eat and drink?

EVERYTHING ON DEMAND

We can of course just fill our homes with more stuff — every inch of surface space under a utility or device, our cupboards choker in preparation for the next lock-down. The definition of preparation and self-sufficiency or a dystopian nightmare of clutter?

We can do better than this though. Good design can create a more comfortable domestic future through the products and services in our homes.

The on-demand services which have proliferated due to the pandemic provide part of a solution, especially when experienced through the lens of a new language of humanistic interface and integrated design. These flexible services can be put to use powering the next generation of home devices, so that our homes can fulfil the role of the external infrastructure we previously enjoyed and used throughout the working day.

So as creatives we need to explore solutions to tie the immediacy of home delivery, the changing concept of the home as a multi-function space and future domestic tech together. So imagine this…. An espresso machine that heats up just in time for your gap between afternoon meetings, the post workout shake that arrives just as you complete the last rep or the ice cold beer that’s just topped off as you open the fridge after a long Friday.

The development of home delivery services has meant that people can order and receive food stuffs in under 15 minutes. This presents opportunities for the likes of Starbucks, BrewDog or Greggs to extend their services into the home, with the home becoming the site not only of consumption but of preparation.

The Internet of Things, local delivery networks and micro-fulfilment will change the way we think about food and how we buy it — it will blur the boundaries between what is a restaurant and what is a shop, between what is considered home-made, store-bought or take-away. Everything you need or want will be delivered to you without you having to lift a finger. New delivery vehicles will transport and replenish the products, whether in their raw state, part-prepared or ready to consume, through constant dialogue with the new generation of food storage and preparation devices.

INTUITIVELY HUMAN

Our current home devices can be smart but they make us feel dumb when we have to bark instructions, remember key words or worse mash buttons. So that our relationships with our devices don’t feel oppressive or dominating, the way we interact with them needs to soften, be gestural, tactile, non-verbal and suggestive, like how people speak to each other when they cohabitate happily. Our technology should learn to understand us, to interpret our state of wellbeing through our facial expressions, the tone of our voice, ordering in whatever is needed so that we can feel better.

INTEGRATION NOT DECEPTION

There has been a trend in consumer and domestic technology to disguise, to hide and to deceive. Things either have to look like a little version of their expensive big brother, to stand out pride of place, or they are shrouded, made to look like something else. With the ever increasing number of functions we expect of the home, we will need a new way of incorporating these technologies without overwhelming or cluttering the space. We need a new language of integration, a surface, vessel or lighting that can provide simple functionality far beyond its technological capabilities that can be plugged into a universal infrastructure of the home.

We expect far more of our homes than we ever have before — this includes how, what, where and when we eat. Through good design and innovation, we can create a space that brings the best of the outside world in, whilst feeling entirely personal.

Author: James Ravenhall, Creative Director at NewTerritory