If These Machines Could Talk

New solutions are making it easier for kitchen devices to share their feelings with operators
clean oven

Forget your gas pumps. Never mind the back office.

The “Internet of things” is coming to commercial kitchens. It’s allowing the ovens, fryers and fountains to communicate with store managers or corporate headquarters, thereby reducing downtime and improving the consumer experience.

The need to keep the kitchen up and running has been a priority since early humans first controlled fire. But today’s technology demands more advanced, “smart” systems.

For its part, Emerson Climate Technologies Retail Solutions is positioning itself as the Switzerland of kitchen connectivity, working with manufacturers to standardize communications across different pieces of equipment into one service. What’s more, the Kennesaw, Ga.-based company is making its Connected Kitchens program part of its “Intelligent Store” framework, which includes lighting systems, refrigeration and HVAC.

30 billion

Number of alarms Emerson gets yearly for equipment. Less than 10% result in any sort of a store contact. —Emerson Climate Technology

For Connected Kitchens, Emerson is focusing on equipment maintenance, uptime and the ability to send a new menu or update to a piece of equipment. It’s the last objective that’s “probably the biggest hot button we’ve encountered,” says Paul Hepperla, director of new solutions development and enterprise product management.

When an operator simply trusts someone to plug in a thumb drive to update a piece of equipment, there’s no confirmation that the information was uploaded properly. “We talked to one retailer who said that a year and a half after they’d done a menu change, they walked into a store and realized none of the ovens in that store had been operating,” says Hepperla. Connected Kitchens allows the operator to confirm updates.

All this connectivity can lead to a lot of noise. Countless beeps and buzzes can quickly numb your managers to crucial communications. Fortunately, along with the technology, streamlined communications is coming. “It’s the difference between data and information,” says Hepperla.