Generally speaking, I’m pretty good at skipping past ads in my Twitter stream, but this one grabbed my attention with a clickbait headline that proved harder to resist than a perfectly grilled slab of beef.
“Would you believe this steak was cooked by an iPhone?”
Not for a nanosecond, of course, despite the multitude of stories connecting fire and iPhones over the years.
But I couldn’t escape the attendant curiosity: What in the name of Steve Jobs might allow a marketing professional – no, make that even a marketing professional — to suggest such a preposterous feat might be possible.
Turns out they’re selling a “smart” frying pan. The iPhone is delivering data, not dinner. (In hindsight, the company’s name – Pantelligent –should have been a giveaway.)
Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal recently published a story about dumb objects becoming “smart,” and surprisingly enough, Pantelligent’s pan fared relatively well at the hands of an author who otherwise roasted the trend.
Humberto Evans, founder of Pantelligent, also is making a smart pan. (A general rule of connected-object startups is that where there is one, there are many.) Mr. Evans’s pan is further along—he is already at the manufacturing stage—and does one thing that is genuinely useful. It can tell you the precise temperature of the pan. But rather than providing a readout in, say, the handle of the pan, Pantelligent’s pan can only tell you through your smartphone, to which it connects wirelessly.
“I think Pantelligent has the capability to be way more than a product,” says Mr. Evans. “What we’re really taking is the knowledge of how people know how to cook and delivering it through a pan. You have to put the chip in it for a reason.”
Of all the startups I talked to, Mr. Evans made the best case for his smart gadget, which can do things like tell you how long to cook your salmon based on its thickness. But I also found the logic of nearly all of these startups —that their first connected object was just the start of something bigger, an entire “ecosystem” of connected objects—to be informed more by their ambition than the needs of the consumer.
And remember that this pan is “the best case.”