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Chinese Companies Betting Big on Smart Kitchen

Mike Wolf Alibaba China Midea Smart Kitchen TenCent Xiaomi

It appears China has woken up to the smart kitchen

Midea, one of the largest makers of rice cookers in the Chinese market (40% market share), is working with Xiaomi to create a Wi-Fi connected rice cooker. The deal, which had Midea selling $55 million worth of shares to Xiaomi, looks to be only the beginning for Midea, who has indicated they're also working on HomeKit and WeChat (TenCent) integrated air conditioners.

High-end Chinese appliance maker Robam has developed its own connected appliance line called ROKI, which includes a range hood and gas stove.  The appliances include access to recipes and instructions, adjust cooking settings automatically and the company is working on Amazon Dash Replenishment-like service for home delivery of groceries. 

According to the company's CEO, all of the big appliance makers in China are working on smart kitchen appliances. 

The company's vision of an appliance with a fairly evolved cooking assistance platform as well as the forthcoming food replenishment services integration is a fairly evolved vision. While we've seen Amazon partner with Quirky and Whirlpool for its replenishment service, those companies efforts seem to be only really starting. Dacor has been pushing its line of connected stove tops for some time, but I've yet to see anything from them on the replenishment front.

In general, the overall smart home industry in China is gathering significant steam, with various ecosystem players falling into place  - TenCent/WeChat as a platform provider, Alibaba developing a "platform", Xiaomi investing in companies like Midea and creating their own module-cloud combo - and a variety of different end point product makers working their own lineups of consumer facing products.  The smart kitchen seems to be more of an early focus for many of these players relative to other markets, but I suspect Apple may change that dynamic in the US with the HomeKit coming out party in June. 

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