The most advanced household appliances do not only perform their main function in the best way, but widen their action, becoming multifunction products to be more and more efficient and offer a greater user experience
by Elena Corti
The world of household appliances is facing big changes: appliances, in fact, do not perform only a single function, but tend to gather different functionalities in a single product, in order to offer greater comfort and performance to consumers. Considering the various types of appliances, those dedicated to the kitchen environment are among the most evident examples of multi-functionality.
Think of the extractor hob, which combines the cooking functions with the extraction of fumes and vapors. This product generally presents all the features of induction models (for example the Bridge and Boost functions, pause and timer, touch control commands, precise adjustment of power levels, residual heat indicator, pan recognition, the control lock for child safety, ease of cleaning), to which the typical functions of a hood are added, with different suction speeds, automatic delayed switch-off function, electronic programming, grease and anti-odor filters , energy efficiency. There are models with the aspirator positioned in the center of the top (with a circular or rectangular grid) or versions in which the extraction takes place through lateral slits or even products characterized by the integrated hood that emerges from the hob when needed and then disappears when it must not be used. These types of products have allowed a greater freedom in the design of the kitchen, reducing the overall dimensions of the hood to a minimum. From a physical-technological point of view, the principle at the basis of the suction hob consists in intercepting vapors and fumes directly from below.
These, in fact, rise with a maximum speed of 1 m/s: the suction system intervenes by extracting them downwards with a greater speed, creating a transversal flow. The cooking vapors are captured and the grease particles and odors are not dispersed in the environment and are not deposited on the surfaces of the furniture or fabrics.
A further aspect that characterizes the versatility of this type of hobs is the possibility to choose between the suction or filtering version. In the first case, the fumes are conveyed outside the house through a pipe, while in the second case the air, filtered and cleaned from grease and odors, is returned to the kitchen. There are also models that combine the suction or filtering system with the cold plasma technology that cleans and purifies, further improving the quality of the kitchen environment.
Moreover, always with a view to multi-functionality, systems are available on the market combining – in a single solution – induction hob with aspirator and teppanyaki plate. Among the latest innovations, there is also the extractor hob that integrates a scale to weigh foods directly into the pot and at any temperature level, making the preparation of a recipe easier and more immediate. The scale can also be used when the hob is off: among the different options, this appliance has the “tare” function (to weigh the ingredients one by one resetting when a new one is added) and the function to keep the selected weigh.
Within the hobs, another innovation that allows the user to have more functions available are segmented models, which combine for example induction, gas and electric plate. In this way a 3 in 1 product is obtained, allowing the three technologies to be used in the space of a normal hob, exploiting all the possibilities offered by the different cooking systems. Mixed hobs “move” in a similar direction, combining gas burners and induction zones and are available in different variants to adapt to different space requirements. All these solutions are designed to allow the user take advantages from any different cooking modes: in this way water can be boiled in a few minutes using induction without renouncing powerful burners for other types of preparations.
Finally, another trend that runs parallel to the multi-functionality is managing the space in an innovative way to harmonize the various functions in the kitchen. For example, there are products that combine the cooking function and the washing area in a single solution to make the most of the corner space. These are proposals designed on the basis of a detailed study of the movements, gestures and dynamics involved in daily actions: the result is a multi-functional work area designed around the ergonomics of movements. Moreover, among the most original ideas in the kitchen, there is also that of making the hob no longer an immovable object but an instrument that can be placed on the work area when needed and then raised or even hung on the wall when no longer needed: when the appliance is raised, the hob space becomes a work surface.
Oven: the multifunction appliance for excellence
Surely the oven is one of the devices that have been able to combine a greater variety of functions, making available an ever increasing number of automatic programs and cooking modes. The increasing use of electronics allows to offer consumers advanced technologies to obtain excellent results thanks to intuitive and user-friendly systems: displays and electronic controls in fact guide the user who can rely on automatic processes.
The multi-functions ovens are designed to allow the consumer to cook easily without the need to manually set temperatures and cooking modes thus avoiding making mistakes: from bread to pizza, from meat to recipes that require slow cooking, up to keeping warm, these devices also allow less experienced users trying prepare also elaborate recipes. Desserts remain soft, bread perfectly rises and forms a golden crust, meat cooks in the best way while remaining tender. These results are also possible thanks to the fact that the more advanced models are equipped with accessories that were previously used only in the professional field, such as the meat probe or the refractory stone for ovens equipped with the Pizza function that are able to reach a temperature of over 300 degrees, creating a cooking similar to that of a wood oven.
Moreover, there are devices in which a series of recipes are already stored or models that allow you to connect to the Internet and view video recipes on the door of the product that becomes a screen. In addition, the connected ovens enable new functions: they can be managed remotely through a smartphone, with which for example you can activate the pre-heating so that the user, returning home, find the appliance already warm.
Among the latest trends in the field of ovens, there is certainly steam cooking combined with traditional one. This type of product not only makes it possible to choose between different programs where the use of steam is regulated (for example for cooking sous vide), but also offers the possibility of combining steam and hot air for a tasty but at the same time healthy cuisine. Steam can be very useful in the kitchen: just to mention a few, it helps to obtain an excellent leavening of the dough, preserves the nutritional properties of the vegetables and makes the meat soft and succulent. The range of opportunities made available consumers to experiment with different types of cooking is further extended.
Among other products dedicated to the kitchen, it is also worth mentioning the microwave ovens which offers more and more features and types of cooking that can also be combined. Today microwave ovens not only heat and defrost, but can also be used for cooking: the most advanced models allow, in addition to cooking with microwaves, even ventilated and steam cooking.
Finally, even among freestanding cookers there are versions designed to allow a multifunctional use of the product: for example there are models equipped with an oven that can work both with electricity and gas, thus allowing the best of both technologies to be exploited, choosing the one or the other depending on what you want to cook.
Cold and not only
If the world of cooking has made multi-functionality one of its strengths, even the Cooling segment has been able to offer innovations in this direction, going beyond the already innovative technologies for storing food with differentiated areas and compartments. There are for example refrigerators that integrate the wine cellar, allowing you to preserve the quality of wines without having to provide an extra space in the kitchen. Refrigerators are also be launched on the market equipped with the accessory to make ice cream and products coated with a special slate-effect paint that turns the outside of the fridge into a blackboard on which to write. Further proposals are represented by devices that allow to choose any time which compartments to dedicate to cooling and which to freezing: the refrigerator becomes a very flexible multi-zone device, able to respond to the changing needs of the user. Finally, some refrigerators are equipped with innovative technologies and functions that make them not only a tool to preserve but also a hub for the Internet of Things.
This type of device is connected and allows to look inside the refrigerator even when you are away from home, using a smartphone and internal cameras. Moreover, through a large screen integrated into the product, you can create the shopping list and even order it on-line, find recipes, share photos and messages, watch TV programs and listen to music.
Remaining in the field of Cooling, a tool that stands out for its multi-functionality is the blast chiller. This product, created for the professional channel, is proposed on the domestic market as a device capable of performing multiple functions both in terms of cooling and cooking. The presence of numerous programs allows the blast chiller to be versatile and to be used to meet different needs. In terms of cooling, this product can, for example, quickly reduce the temperature, freeze, sanitize fish and cool the bottles. As for the heat, it can leaven, cook at low temperature, regenerate and thaw. It is a tool designed to be simple and intuitive so that the user can easily manage the multiple functions.
Purifying, illuminating , furnishing
Hood is a household appliance that in recent years has undergone a strong evolution, which has led it to improve its performance and to increase its functions. As already mentioned for the extractor hobs, it does not limit itself to extract fumes and odors but can also filter and purify the air. If domestic environments become unhealthy, the latest generation hoods are equipped with sensors that detect pollutants and are able to activate automatically to restore air quality. For the user, this translates into a healthier environment and greater comfort. Furthermore, new features have been made possible by the digital technologies: for example, connected hoods can be managed by the smartphone through an app and there are also models capable of communicating with the hob.
Thanks to the controls integrated in the top, in fact, hood operates automatically while the user cooks in order to always guarantee a healthy and pleasant environment. But not only. Among the different functions that the hood is able to carry out, there is also that of a chandelier, which ensures effective lighting and for some versions is also adjustable in intensity. Light and suction, despite being two distinct elements, find harmony within a single product: in particular, there are models with a very refined design in which a perfect balance is created between technological innovation, visual comfort and attention to aesthetics.
Additional factors that make the hood a multi-functional product are inherent in the product structure itself. Think of the models that also become shelves (for example using eco-sustainable materials such as wood) and are equipped with electrical outlets, USB ports, supports for the tablet and areas set up for placing kitchen utensils. Among the most original solutions, there is the hood that can accommodate even a small vegetable garden with aromatic plants.
Finally, more and more frequently hood combines elements that make it a piece of furniture to functions related to the technological aspects. The concept of multi-functionality goes beyond all the hi-tech functions of the appliance and extends to a range of finishes and styles that expand the use of the product, which can be displayed with pleasure because it becomes an object simultaneously functional and aesthetically pleasing.
In the area of products dedicated to air treatment, not only kitchen hoods can be considered as multifunction products. Also purifiers have evolved, with solutions that are at the same time instruments able to guarantee the quality of the air and lamps to be placed in the environment, equipped with adjustable LED lights. Models made in various colors are available on the market (to better adapt to the context in which they are inserted) and with indicators that visually signal the state of the air and the progressive improvement of environmental conditions.
|A 360 ° look at the world of household appliances
Although in some segments the trend towards multi-functionality is particularly marked, it actually affects the whole world of the home appliance. Small appliances, such as food processors and cooking machines, are more and more all -in-one devices thanks to the large number of accessories and automatic programs available. A similar concept is also found in products for male beauty, also equipped with various accessories and functions to take care of beard and hair using a single appliance, while in the vacuum cleaners segment we find versatile electric brooms that allow users to pass easily from the broom mode to the hand held vacuum cleaner mode, or brooms that combine steam and cyclonic technology, or even robots that have wet and dry cloths with which they are able to perform both dry and wet cleaning. Another multi-function small domestic appliance is coffee machine, able of preparing numerous drinks in addition to the classic espresso. If we move then on to air-conditioning, there are now many products that cool and heat, while if we think of washing, the multi-functionality of a washing machine is increased not only by the growing number of programs but also by the new possibilities offered by the Internet connection: in particular, among the latest trends there are washing machines that can communicate with dryers or washing machines able to interact responding to voice commands. Finally, even Brown Goods are strongly distinguished by the tendency to multi-functionality: just think of smart TVs and smartphones.