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The Mark—Penthouse Kitchen
Courtesy of The Mark

Here’s What Happens When You Connect a Crock Pot to a Volcano of Data

When Jarden, the company behind brands like Mr. Coffee and Crock Pots began connecting its kitchen appliances to the Internet three years ago, it failed to think things through. It ended up with giant overflowing casserole of information that it was unprepared to handle.

"The idea of thinking about data is a new skill for us and a capability we didn't have," Alejandro Pena, the company's U.S. president of consumer solutions admitted at the SmartKitchen Summit in Seattle on Thursday. "We now have over 10 million lines of data that we know is very powerful, but at the beginning of this process we were just not prepared for the amount of data that was going to come our way."

He acknowledged that Jarden (jah), three years later, still isn't ready to handle all of the incoming data, partly because data scientists don't know much about cooking. "We grapple a lot with 'do we build it in-house or do we go outside?'" Pena said. "A lot of people who have the skills from a data science standpoint may not really understand our business."

So for now, the connected Crock Pots or the connected Mr. Coffee pots that people can control using their mobile phones are generating data that Jarden isn't ready to use. Its connected coffee pot, for instance, sends back information about its water level and the time of day it is used.

Electrolux, another kitchen appliance maker, had similar issues with digesting data. It was like a young chef with all the fancy ingredients for a boeuf bourguignon, but none of the expertise to pull it off.

"I knew we wanted the data, but I didn't know it was going to be so much," said Nathan Cho, connectivity program manager at Electrolux. He said the company found itself with a deluge of temperature data, for example, but realized that having row after row of readings that say 39 degrees meant little to engineers.

Cho is also interested in connecting appliances, not necessarily to deliver services for consumers, but for helping understand how to make products better. For example, adding sensors to ice makers could tell Electrolux how much ice a typical consumer uses daily, and thus, how large refrigerator ice makers should be. It's something that customer interviews and focus groups would be unable to reveal.

But it was clear from both companies, that adding Internet connections to kitchen appliances has been an opportunity, but also has led to a reckoning of sorts over data. Their dilemma isn't unique, and it's one that will become more common as more companies connect their products, offices, and cars.

For more about connected homes, watch this Fortune video:

Update: This story was updated on Nov. 9 because Nathan Cho of Electrolux was misidentified. His name is Nathan Cho, not Nathan Lee.

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