Beckhoff in the Kitchen

I was a little surprised when I read about Industrial PC Technology in High End Kitchens in Beckhoff’s PC Control magazine. The entire kitchen is integrated together using industrial PC technology:

SieMatic’s self-developed software for the selection menu and the control functions forms the heart of the SieMatic Grid. The basis is a
modularly structured Beckhoff Embedded PC equipped with a Windows XP Embedded operating system as well as a .Net framework. Via RS232, the Beckhoff PC controls the T+A components as well as managing all functions that they do not take care of. Above all, these naturally include all the typical PC tasks, such as Internet access, e-mail access and data services (such as weather forecast or newsfeeds), but also entertainment programs, such as slide shows. All Miele@home appliances are also integrated via the Ethernet interface of the Embedded system.

The most important functions, however, run invisibly in the background, because the Beckhoff PC works almost like a mediator between different worlds: for example, a television broadcast can be interrupted for messages from the Miele system – that the dishwasher program has finished, for instance – if the user so desires. The integration of other systems – for example, the picture from an IP monitoring camera – is easy to accomplish using Beckhoff hardware. It was clear from the outset to SieMatic project manager Thorsten Pawelczyk that the SieMatic Grid would be a constantly growing and changing system: “The fact that the Beckhoff automation system hardly sets any limits regarding the integration of other systems comes just at the right time.”

I question the logic of putting industrial technology in a consumer kitchen, but I must admit I’m impressed and envious. I think the real question is, does it have the “hackability” we’ve come to expect from industrial control systems? Can I connect to it with TwinCAT PLC and modify the functions, extend it, or tie in new systems? Somehow I doubt it. The article mentions it runs a .NET application, so in this case they’re probably only using the hardware, not the Beckhoff control software.

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