A smarter way to manage food
It started with a simple lightbulb moment back in 2013, when Christian Lane, CEO of Smarter, decided to create the first ever WiFi-enabled iKettle
Lane believed that as technology developed, the kitchen was lagging behind when it came to smart tech. Smarter started with Lane manufacturing the iKettle on Firebox, which became one of the fastest selling products on their platform.
Since then, with co-founders Isabella Lane and Andreas Lane, Smarter has quickly become one of the UK’s fastest growing connected home companies specialising in kitchen technology that aims to improve our everyday lives. Sarah Pieters, Head of Marketing at Smarter explained, how the company is now on its third generation iKettle, second generation Smarter Coffee machine, and the ground-breaking FridgeCam – a wireless fridge camera which can help consumers save on time, energy, money and most importantly, minimise food waste forever.
"We’re trying to help people turn their kitchen into a smart kitchen without breaking the bank,” Pieters said. For example the latest product, the FridgeCam, is sold for £149.99 - when in comparison to other smart fridges in the industry, is just a fraction of the cost.
Having many purposes the Smarter FridgeCam aims to help people reduce waste. Pieters explained: "The camera is designed to retro-fit into any fridge and turn it into a smart fridge. FridgeCam takes a picture of your fridge contents as the door is closing, and sends it to your smartphone through the Smarter app. As soon as you receive this picture you have the latest image of your fridge so you know what is inside at any time, and then additionally add best before dates to the items.”
TELL US ABOUT THE PRODUCT
The function of adding best before dates is exceptionally useful, as the Smarter app will alert you a day before items are going out of date. "This makes you conscious that some items might be going to waste. With this feature, we’re trying to reduce food waste, and our aim is to completely eliminate it.”
Currently you can either add items to your inventory manually or scan the barcodes. Pieters added: "Right now we are working in a partnership with Tesco, so all Tesco products can be scanned. But you can also manually add other products, homemade or from other stores.”
Another function of the FridgeCam is that you can create a shopping list through the Smarter app, so you know exactly what you need. Pieters commented: "This is another important factor in helping people to avoid over-buying and wasting food. You can see what’s in your fridge, as well as what’s on your shopping list through the app at all times , so we are encouraging people to make more environmentally friendly choices when buying and managing their food at home – it makes you a lot more aware.”
The FridgeCam is battery powered and charged through a micro-USB, which doesn’t waste energy while in the fridge is to try and save on energy. Pieters also added: "Smart fridges also use up a significant amount of energy, so besides trying to save on food waste and cost we are really trying to avoid increasing people’s energy usage.”
THE ROUTE TO FUNDING
Up until now Smarter has been self-funded. "Being self-funded really makes you pay attention to how money is being spent and encourages you to use your resources creatively. I would encourage start-ups to look at going through the self-funded route and not feel like they have to pursue investors to build a company.” Pieters added.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WOMAN IN TECH?
Describing her experiences as a female in the tech industry Pieters said: "Personally, I have not really had a bad experience as a female, but I have definitely found that it is more male dominated in the tech industry.”
Pieters explained that in this industry you need to strive for what you want. "Women, including myself, always feel like they need to go the extra mile to prove themselves. In my opinion, the only thing keeping us back is a mental barrier. I’ve seen a lack of gender equality internationally, not just in the UK, but for me this is a mind-set that we need to overcome and encourage more women to get into the tech industry. Both men and women should support and learn from each other. PwC has recently looked at the role of women in tech and found that only 15% of STEM employees in the UK are women. The more worrying part of the study was that only 15.8% of STEM undergraduates are currently women.”
Knowledge sharing is key in this industry. She continued: "I have personally experienced females in the industry having a really tough time, losing out on promotions to men in the field or being told that they’re not ‘tough enough’ for the leadership position. The minute women and men receive equal encouragement, the possibilities within this industry will be limitless.”
Pieters’ inspiration came from the book ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg as she said: "This one for me really stood out, because it encourages women to challenge gender inequality at the workplace and to take charge of their own careers.” Pieters also thought ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek was a very inspiring novel in terms of leadership, as it focused on creating a movement to inspire leaders.
THE NEXT STEP
Pieters believes the future of tech will move into AI, so it will be interesting to see what Smarter will do to keep up and adapt to this vision. "As a team we are all very excited to see what the future holds, the products we make are the first kind on the market, which makes it that much more exciting. We like to disrupt the market a bit, and we like to create things that change the way people perceive tech in their day to day life. We’re excited to see what the smart kitchen will look like in the coming years!”