In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, CHEF iQ’s Rene Midouin joins us to talk about the roles security and privacy play in developing consumer IoT products. Rene shares some of the challenges CHEF iQ faced, as well as a few of the most important considerations his team took into account when developing their smart cooker. Finally, Rene shares his perspective on the smart kitchen, what it means now, and where he thinks it’s going.
We’re pretty sure Rene can solve any problem. From his time at the MTA developing a large scale Bus Fleet Management System, to breaking records as the first student in 20+ years to score 100 out of 100 in all exams of a C++ Object Oriented Programming class, Rene is passionate about using technology to address global challenges while making a lasting impact. As a key player on the CHEF iQ team, Rene is both a resource for his team and the mastermind behind our cutting-edge software. Rene’s motivation to create solutions for universal challenges is mirrored by his favorite CHEF iQ feature. With the Smart Bar technology, he is eager to explore ways to control, customize, and simplify the cooking experience like never before. With Rene at the helm of our ever-learning software, customers can feel confident that they’re in good hands and, in his words, will get the best bang for their buck.
Interested in connecting with Rene? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About CHEF iQ: The CHEF iQ journey began in 2017 with the idea that cooking should be approachable and enjoyable for all. The team of engineers, software developers, culinary professionals, and design experts have created an unrivaled cooking experience that seamlessly combines intuitive software and next-gen hardware to elevate the art of cooking. We’re creating an ecosystem for the cooking community and developing a tightly integrated and well-connected system that focuses on giving users the tools needed to Discover, Create, and Plate restaurant-quality food at home.
Our Smart Cooker is a multi-functional device that does so much more than cook. From baking and sautéing to searing and steaming, CHEF iQ makes it happen. We are contributing to the food-tech revolution through human-centered design and a passion for making the cooking experience more approachable for all.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(0:54) Intro to Rene
(3:59) Intro to CHEF iQ
(8:10) How did reliability and security play a role in the development process?
(10:08) What goes into choosing the right connectivity option for your device or solution?
(12:45) How has the data you’ve been able to collect informed the CHEF iQ product and the development process?
(13:46) How have you addressed the concerns around data collection through these devices? Have you had any feedback through the development process, or even now post-launch?
(16:27) What does the term Smart Kitchen mean to you? How is it currently being used, and how do you see that definition changing?
– [Announcer] You are listening to The IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The IoT For All Podcast on the IoT For All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, or join our newsletter at IoTforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. But before we get started, does your business waste hours searching for assets like equipment or vehicles and pay full-time employees just to manually enter location and status data? You can get real-time location status updates for assets, indoors and outdoors at the lowest cost possible with leverages end to end IoT solutions. To learn more go to IoTchangeseverything.com, that’s IoTchangeseverything.com. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome, Rene, to the IoT For All Podcast and thanks for being here this week.
– [Rene] No problem, thank you Ryan.
– [Ryan] Yeah it’s great to have you. I’d love to start out with you just giving a quick introduction about yourself to our audience. Just tell them a little bit about your background experience, how you ended up at Chef IQ.
– [Rene] Yeah, sure no problem, Ryan. So my name is Rene Midouin and for the past few years, I would say, I’ve been working on very reliable and scalable systems. So if somebody works to be in New York City and they know the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, MTA. So that’s a transportation that people use to go to places that they want to go to. So the buses, the trains and things like this. So I started my career there more or less, where I was building an application that was to be able to help the dispatchers know the exact location of the buses and the city, and more or less being able to know right then there if there’s a problem for the bus, a bus would stop and be able to say, Hey, let me take this bus from this depot and bring to another depot. So you could already see more or less how people were relying so much on this system to be able to make quick decisions so that people can commute better in New York City. And that system definitely required a lot of thinking and implemented it to make sure that the system had a at least a 99.9% uptime because people were relying on it. So taking that same experience, same experiences, I studied at Chef IQ in 2017. And the funny thing is when it came, um how did Chef IQ journey begin more or less? One day CEO came to me with an idea and we were working on a product and the CEO says, You know, what the problem is? I’m working on a product that has to do with, you know cooking food and I have a steak right there in front of me. I don’t know what the time or the temperature should be for me to cook it. I mean, I have the device, but I don’t even know what the time and temperature should be. The company, or more less, usually traditional approach, I would use more or less a book, more or less, a guided how I can I say it? So usually, traditionally, it will come with the user manual, the user guide.
– [Ryan] Right. Right.
– [Rene] And the user guide will say, Hey, you know, for a beef, try to cook it between 10 minutes and 15 minutes, the temperatures should be between 125 degrees Fahrenheit to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. So it was leaving a lot of room for guessing. So we like, oh my God, that is an actual problem. So I was tasked to solve that problem. And what we did, we came up with a brand new thing that we called The Calculator. And the idea behind it was we’re going to provide people tools, we’re going to use technology to more or less make life a little bit easier and remove that guessing work. So that’s exactly what we did. And so now when you go and you look at Chef IQ, what we wanted to make sure is that you can think about what is it that you want to cook and it will tell you how to get there. So now no more second guessing. You can just go ahead and say Hey, I wanna do chicken or I wanna do steak. I like it medium well or medium rare. And what should I do? Then Chef IQ will tell you, Hey, leave it in there for 100 for 30 minutes at 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
– [Ryan] So why don’t you tell our audience a little bit more about what Chef IQ is? Because obviously you’ve just given some background information on kind of the value in what it can provide, but I think, you know, let’s bring it a little bit around and, you know be very straight with our audience of exactly what this is. It’s a wonderful cooking device that I own as well, used on a regular basis, but for our audience who may not be familiar with Chef IQ, can you talk a little bit more about what the offering is to the market and kind of how it works?
– [Rene] Yeah, sure. Chef IQ, we like to call it an ecosystem. It is uh, so Chef IQ as a company has a team of engineers, developers culinary professionals, designers that came together to create an unparalleled experience in the kitchen space using intuitive software, next-generation hardware to more or less, enhance how people cook in the kitchen. So that’s high level who we are. I’m trying to core as a company. Now, the first product to achieve this that we put out is the product that you mentioned, Ryan which is a Smart Cooker. And what it is is that we sit a lot of culiare professionals. We have a lot of recipes. We like to call them guided cooking recipes because they really do guide you to that journey. And we have a lot of designers that puts together a very sleek, intuitive design because we believe that cooking should not be you shouldn’t be intimidated and intimidated by cooking. So therefore it should be you shouldn’t be scared when you see a pressure cooker or when you hear a pressure cooker you shouldn’t be scared to use it. So that’s where we took into consideration that the design had to be sleek and should look different from what’s out there.
– [Ryan] Right.
– [Rene] And then when it comes to the software and everything we knew that to really call it a smart a smart product, the user should feel less the technology but should quickly understand the value it brings. It again, more or less, the user should really truly feel that the technology’s there, but to they should be able to make good use of it.
– [Ryan] Right.
– [Rene] That means connectivity, everything that we how you connect to the product, how you use it all the features that we have the technology should be secondary. But the experience that you have interacting with the product is what will always come first and we always push for that.
– [Ryan] So let me ask you what, from an IoT perspective what technologies are you all utilizing in your Smart Cooker to make it a Smart Cooker? I mean, obviously I know there’s an app that’s connected but just, just from a general sense where do the IoT components come in and their value that they provide?
– [Rene] Yeah, sure. So the IoT piece came in, like you mentioned we have an app for the Smart Cooker and traditionally people will say this is a little bit geeky, right? An app, a Smart Cooker, who cares? In terms of technology what we did there from an IoT standpoint when we say IoT is the ability for products to be connected to the cloud, you know, for the app to be able to enter that product that is connected to the cloud. Why, why was it necessary? Well, can you imagine, for example using the tool to figure out the cooking time the cooking temperature that you should set your hardware to and to leave the app that gives you those answers and to go manually touch the device instead of those cooking parameters?
– [Ryan] Right.
– [Rene] So it’s almost like the experience is a little bit broken there. So the IoT piece come in as secondary again. We might as well just use a tiny bridge to take those values and push it down to the device for you. In terms of other technologies, again, we don’t want to go too deep on talking about Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, servers, and things like that. But again, we have a scale embedded into the hardware and you might ask why do you have a scale? Well, I always tell people, if you ask me to cook rice you ask me to go for three people. There’s two things I don’t know. I don’t know how much rice I should use and I don’t know how much water I should put. And even if I did know, personally as a user I actually don’t cook much. So I don’t have kitchen tools. I don’t have like a measuring cup at home. So essentially that’s where I use a scale to to help me achieve those, those, solve those same points.
– [Ryan] So I’m curious as, as it relates to your background a little bit, and you talk about your experience, designing and implementing kind of these efficient, reliable, and scalable systems. Can you kind of talk to us from a non, limited technical perspective, for those out there who maybe are not as technical as you are. Explain kind of what that means and why that’s important and how that played a role in the development of, of your Smart Cooker.
– [Rene] Yeah, sure. So we say reliable and it has to be secure, for example. In terms of reliability the way I like to put it, why is it? I also say the security piece first. The last thing I would want this to be at home, sleeping and my Smart Cooker started cooking. Started, it started singing all this funny stuff without my knowing. So I can say that everything we do here when it comes to IoT security has to be taken very, very seriously. I’ve heard in the news, more or less, definitely different companies out there. For example, unfortunately where people say Hey I have a camera at home. It has been hacked, people can see. So security comes up first because those products are products How can I say it? Again, when you talk about a pressure cooker, the first thing that comes to mind, again, it’s a pressure as it builds and we have to make sure that again in terms of security things don’t go wrong here. In terms of reliability, what we’re trying to promise people is that when you go to the supermarket and you go buy that food or those ingredients and you want to try a brand new recipe we promise you more or less perfection on the first try. So that means the system cannot give up in the middle of a cooking session and if things were to, you know you lose internet connection or you use, or I dunno things breaks down a little bit that you should be able to still get to the end result, um, regardless.
– [Ryan] Yeah. And question about the kind of the connectivity piece. I mean, obviously with any IoT solution the ability to have constant connectivity plays a huge role in the success of the device whether it’s enterprise or consumer. And so why is it important for adopters to ensure like IoT adopters in general, whether they, again consumers or enterprise in ensure that they have this constant connectivity in their solution which then ties into their decision to pick the right connectivity technology. And I’m, so I’m just curious if you could kind of speak to the importance of that constant connectivity and you know if you kind of cut the corners or choose the wrong type of connectivity for your individual use case why that potentially is a mistake.
– [Rene] Yeah. So it will definitely be potentially on the stake if chosen the wrong one, because of the experience. We like to believe that we are in the business of providing a great user experience, just because of that. I see a couple of ways, for example of how people connect their smart products. I don’t want to go into too much, too much details, for example. So one thing that we had to do, a lot of times to connect your product on you would have to take your phone leave the actual app, go to your settings to connect to the product, enter your Wi-Fi credentials just so that the product can be connected to Wi-Fi. They go back to the app and that’s in terms of experience that is not optimal. And in to alleviate this pain, all we have to do obviously is to use Bluetooth technology combine, obviously the Wi-Fi technology to stay connected to the internet, where we use the Bluetooth technology obviously as a bridge to transfer those Wi-Fi credentials from your phone to the hardware that is in front of you because the hardware has no ability, or it has no keyboard, more or less to enter its own Wi-Fi credentials or the password.
– [Ryan] Right.
– [Rene] That’s one, that’s one thing here where experience came first. And the other piece is constant connectivity. The last thing I want is, as I’m cooking, I didn’t get the right notification and time, for example, that Hey in 15 minutes, you need to go ahead and put the food in or there’s like three minutes left go ahead and start flipping the food and start stirring, or come back to the kitchen and add the rest of the ingredients. So you can already see that you got to stay highly connected for seamless user experience and to achieve this is definitely not easy. And that’s the reason why we collect a lot of data to quickly see what’s happening how many people are satisfied how’s the experience? Is it breaking down at any point so that we can quickly act on it.
– [Ryan] That really plays into kind of the role of the data analytics piece and just so you’re able your ability to collect user experience data from the device on a regular basis through the connectivity, obviously, and I I’m curious what you have learned from, from the data you all are able to collect, kind of how that’s led to the, you know, the Smart Cooker that’s available today.
– [Rene] So there’s a lot of things that we’ve learned for example, different people in different regions what they like to come to most, for example, and start seeing certain patterns here, the people’s interaction with the product itself, sometimes we released a feature, we thought it was a great feature, just to learn from the data that not everybody’s actually interacting with it. And were able to do some changes and in just to realize that that decreased on user engagement. So I would say that collecting those data helped us understand a little bit about the people. What is that they want, that they want to see and how they interact with the entire system?
– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s, I’d be curious to learn not necessarily from this conversation, but in the future just kind of learn how people are using these advice. Like, what are they cooking? You know, how how has it kind of benefiting, benefiting their daily life? And I’m curious how you have seen feedback either in early stage development, or even just now how people feel about smart devices in their kitchen collecting data on them. And this is, I think just goes to a higher level security conversation which obviously when you put any kind of smart device at home, there’s always concerns depending on who you are and your kind of risk tolerance level of the data that these devices are collecting. And how does that affect their use of the device as well as their privacy. And I, I’m curious kind of what how you all approach that and what your kind of thoughts are as it relates to your Smart Cooker.
– [Rene] No problem. So, number one, where we try our best to do is to be very transparent of what we do with the data. I think a lot of the users they need to know what the data is how the data is being used and what we do with it. I would say number one is transparency to alleviate those, those concerns that the users have and numbers too, like you said, in the kitchen, right? Who needs a smart device, that data has been collected. What is it that we’re doing for? I’m a strong believer of really helping more or less remove the guess work helping people achieve efficiency in the kitchen by using technological tools. So in that sense, for example if you really have strong, like like you have some sort of, I dunno you care a lot about your diet, what you eat the type of food that you’re cooking and things like this. And we know about this information, we will always make sure that we give you things that you care about. So this is in a small way how collecting data and having that information be able to build a system that is meant for you. So that’s where again, personalization going to be a huge thing in everything we do because at the same time, if I’m looking at a recipe ABC and then add my friend looking at the same exact recipe but my friend doesn’t like cheese, but I like cheese but we’re both looking at the same recipe. So it does, the system takes that into account where as a user, I shouldn’t even think about it. I just go to the floor and the system will take care of me because the system knows, the system knows that I don’t like cheese and they’ll know that I really liked this recipe, but I don’t like cheese. What is that you can’t perform in this system? So more or less for us that’s how we plan on using that data and enhance their entire experience in the kitchen.
– [Ryan] Okay, fantastic. I mean, I think the biggest thing for people to understand is that security and the privacy piece are at the forefront of your conversation and your experience building these scalable and reliable you know, efficient systems has kind of put that front of mind as in not just in the development of stuff in the past, but also in the development of your products now and going forward. I think that’s a very important thing for people to understand and feel comfortable whenever they’re buying any type of smart product. And that kind of pulls into the last piece of discussion I want to have with you today is around the terminology of a smart kitchen. So there’s a lot of, you know, we talk about smart homes. We talk about smart devices on the consumer side and the kitchen is a piece of that that smart home that is becoming more and more smart if you will, every day with new devices like this. So to you all what does it mean when people say smart kitchen and and how do, are people currently kind of interpreting that phrase or using that phrase? And, but in internally on your side what do you think that term actually should mean rather than how it’s kind of being used today? Because I’m sure there are some discrepancies there.
– [Rene] Yeah, definitely. I would definitely say that one of the things that I realized when people mention smart kitchen, for some reason it’s like that glorified remote control that you have a phone that can control all of your appliances in order for you to set microwave you know to remotely start your coffee, coffee maker to make coffee in the morning. And I realized that to me that that is not what I would like people to think about when they think of smart kitchen. What I really want to, for them to think about is to imagine a vision, more or less to have a picture of what that kitchen could look like, when I want to cook in the microwave, if I said that it is a smart microwave what I’m trying to tell you is that to cook popcorn or whatever it is that you want to do you don’t have to think twice to understand what the time the temperature, or the values that you said that device to. And it’s all about what is it that you’re going to cook versus how you’re going to control the product. And let’s think about notifications, for example. Such tiny technology, how useful it is. You’re watching TV, sitting back, relaxing. And then just to now, having the power to be able to know exactly when you should flip something while you’re so busy doing something else or being able to get recommendations throughout the week in terms of meal planning or how to get things to your doors right away in order for you to plan your weeks and things like that. So, to me, it’s all about the experience in the kitchen and not the technology itself.
– [Ryan] So at, at the end of the day, what would you if somebody is in the, in the effort or in the process of kind of creating a truly smart kitchen, what what needs to be done in order to kind of accomplish that or, yeah. You know, kind of be kind of go down that path to like I guess what is the end goal there for, for consumers? And what’s the, should they be thinking about in that kind of purchasing decision process?
– [Rene] The end goal is our product, we’re targeting more or less three markets, really. The people that really don’t know how to cook and the people that somehow are interested and the people that are very interested in cooking. The people don’t know how to cook, someone like me being fair here and upfront, that technology to us is we’re able to give you tools that where we’re promising you that you don’t need to know how to cook we’ll help you get there. And that’s where, again, from a smart kitchen standpoint guided cooking, being able to guide our user to perfection and planning things while they don’t even know how to do anything in the kitchen to me is very powerful. For the people that are, have some interests what we have for them more or less is we want to build a community around food, for example. So when people are talking about a smart kitchen it has to be fun. It has to be interactive. So we really want to build a community around it so that they could share with each other their daily habits of what is it that they cooked or maybe they have a recipe that they cook one way but somebody else has another twist to it. So those to me is the community piece. And the last piece is for the people that already know how to cook and they want to share with the rest of the world, their masterpiece, more or less being able to provide them a platform where they can share with the rest of the world, things that they know how to do very well. So to meet those three combinations to get those three people into consideration when you’re building a smart kitchen is what’s going to make it or break it. Have a technology that’s going to be available everywhere for anyone, so more or less we are in the business of enabling the entire world to express their inner chef. That’s more or less our mission.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And if anybody listening out there obviously wants to learn, learn more information about your products and potentially purchase one, where what’s the best way to do that?
– [Rene] Amazon will be the quickest way to. Go in there, type ‘Chef IQ’ and they’ll see it come up right away. And that would be a great way to get started or the chefiq.com, which is another great way to go.
– [Ryan] Well, Rene, it’s been fantastic having you here. I appreciate your time kind of sharing these insights and talking about, you know your experiences in the space, the, you know, the the offering, the device, you know, the Smart Cooker itself as well as kind of just the importance between behind the security, the privacy the connectivity pieces that I think a lot of people just don’t necessarily think about in the way that you all do. And it’s important for individuals out there to understand that the people behind these products are thinking about these items very seriously. And it’s something that, you know when you find a good brand that you can trust it’s important to to be able to understand that kind of before you purchase. So I think this has helped is helping that a lot. And I appreciate your time and, and thanks again.
– [Rene] All right. Thanks a lot, Ryan.
– [Ryan] All right, everyone. Thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT For All podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show please drop us a note at ryaniotforall.com and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a future guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next time.