A pressure cooker connected to the Internet?
This week, the Chinese company “Xiaomi” launched a pressure cooker that can be controlled from a mobile telephone. This is an example of the Internet of Things. But, what should be taken into consideration in developing this type of device?
- The pressure cooker
The Xiaomi technology company has launched a complete new range of products, one of the most outstanding being a pressure cooker connected to the Internet to cook food (basically rice). It is called “Mi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker”. This type of kitchen apparatus is already present in the market and is particularly popular in the Asian consumer goods sector.
But, what is innovative about the Xiaomi pressure cooker? In addition to more efficient cooking, which increases the temperature using pressure of up to 105ºC and also recognizes the type of rice to be prepared, the main innovation is that the device is “connected” to the Internet (which includes it in the ecosystem of the Internet of Things).
The pressure cooker has a Wi-Fi connection that allows it to be connected through the household network using the Xiaomi application “Mi Home”. Users of the app can control their rice at all times and have meals ready at the right time. It also appears that different types of rice can be prepared according to the brand, by scanning and processing the packet. To do so, an agreement was reached with more than 200 brands of rice in China.
The company has also announced that it will shortly be launching a watch that measures physical activity, an air purifier and an intelligent bicycle.
The Internet of Things, which is basically an ecosystem of intelligent devices connected together that permanently capture and share data, is one of the markets with the greatest expected potential. Companies intending to enter this sector must address several issues:
- Protection of key assets. Many IoT devices, such as the Xiaomi “pressure cooker” can be protected by a patent (if they meet the requirements of novelty, invention and industrial application) and by industrial design (which protects their appearance). Other issues to be considered are the protection of the software used by IoT devices by copyright (or as part of a patent, although more difficult), as well as the databases that compile the information collected by the device.
Xiaomi has applied for a patent on the technology used for its pressure cooker: Patent Application 201510171308.7, dated April 13, with the Chinese Patents Office, “Rice cooker vacuum pan container constant temperature device”.
- Issues relating to privacy. The IoT is a way of collecting and processing a multitude of all kinds of data, much of which is personal, meaning that special care must be taken to protect it from the very moment the system is designed (“privacy by design” and “security by design”) and to observe the mandatory guidelines imposed by the European Data Protection Regulation.
- Standardization. Just like cell phones, the manufacture of this type of device must include the use of essential standard technologies that enable a minimum level of consistent functioning. This has implications relating to patent licenses considered as essential (FRAND licenses), which many companies will need to be able to use standard essential technology to manufacture their devices.
- Inter-operability. If the idea is for devices to communicate with each other, the inter-operability of different software or the use of free or open source software will have to be considered. The Law regulates how such inter-operability can be achieved with proprietary software.
- IoT Regulation? The IoT still poses a challenge for current legislation, because the collection, transfer, management and analysis of the data involved are activities that can affect civil rights, especially health, security and consumption data that is subject to commercial exploitation. The progressive implementation of the IoT could generate problems relating to the liability for handling such data, its use and cyber delinquency. All of this results in the need to ask ourselves if there is a need for specific IoT regulations or whether it is sufficient to apply different areas of regulations separately. Time will tell.
For more information, contact Ignacio González Royo
Garrigues Intellectual Property Department