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Last Updated:  Sunday, 6 April, 2003, 23:51 GMT 00:51 UK
Wired oven keeps food cool
Alfred Hermida
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology staff

Imagine being able to leave a meal in the fridge for the day but then send a command over the internet to cook it so that it is ready when you get home.

Intelligent oven prototype
The oven can be controlled over the net using power lines
A US company called Tonight's Menu Intelligent Ovens (TMIO) has come up with a refrigerated microwave that can be controlled over the net or by mobile phone.

The product is part of a trend towards the smart kitchen hooked up to the internet, so that you can browse the contents of the fridge or tell the oven to immediately refrigerate your chicken once it is cooked.

"This provides the keystone appliance of the internet kitchen," said David Mansbery, TMIO President. "This will be the start of the future."

Smart appliance

The company has developed a prototype microwave oven to demonstrate the technology, using what is called a Peltier cooling device.

"It has two plates of metal over which you pass an electrical current and it either heats or cools," explained Mr Mansbery.

"It was somewhat of a dumb appliance until we put our chips in it and turned it into a smart appliance," he told the BBC programme Go Digital.

The oven provides you with a method of having home-cooked meals when you want
David Mansberry, TMIO
The company has used embedded web technology developed by Nasa. The US space agency uses the technology to operate their experiments without the need of a built-in computer in every instrument.

Using this technology cuts the cost of internet appliances, as they do not need to have a computer built inside.

It also means the oven can be controlled over the internet or by mobile phone, allowing you to delay the cooking time, change the cooking temperature or cancel the cooking order altogether.

TMIO has been working on their fridge-oven for about six years. Mr Mansbery came up with the idea because his family was missing out on regular meals.

His son was playing evening baseball so often that the family ended up relying on fast food instead of home-cooked dinners.

"The oven provides you with a method of having home-cooked meals when you want," said Mr Mansbery. "You are giving people back their life, with the option to provide healthy meals."

Net kitchens

TMIO plans to build the ovens itself and sell them over the web. It expects the appliances to be ready by the end of the year, costing around $2,000.

But it could face problems in making a dent in a market dominated by established manufacturers of white goods, with vested interests in selling conventional ovens.

In any case some, such as Whirlpool, are also looking to develop internet-ready appliances.

Most companies have generally ignored the idea of computers in the kitchen in favour of more glamorous products such as game consoles and laptops.

But many are starting to eye the market as a potential gold mine, hoping people will be willing to pay extra for products that make mundane daily tasks, like preparing dinner, easier and more efficient.

It reflects how the internet is becoming part of everyday life, with more and more companies talking of a web-connected kitchen that allows people to control their appliances remotely.

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