n March 17-19 several of my Ayla Networks colleagues and I weathered rain, sunshine, terrific oysters and some of the best BBQ ever at the Hearth, Patio and BBQ Expo in New Orleans—all in an effort to promote cloud IoT. Wait, what does IoT and cloud have to do with BBQ???!

At the show, Traegar Grills, Maverick Industries, Green Mountain Grills, Mak Grills, BBQube and Blaze King announced or showed connected product. Some were plans for cloud-connected grills while others were connected accessories.

A month prior to the show, I IoT- and cloud-connected a Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro BBQ to the Ayla Networks cloud. This BBQ has a fully digital controller that allows +/-5 degree control of the BBQ. It’s a very nice unit. (In full disclosure, Smoke Daddy donated the BBQ for this effort as an experiment for the show). While we were at HPB Expo we used the BBQ to hot smoke a rump roast for 6 hours on Thursday, and hot smoke a prime rib roast for 7 hours on Friday.

Why IoT connect? In a word, control. These were the most tender and flavorful roasts done this way—yet I just set the temperature from my iPhone app, then monitored the internal temperature to make sure the meat cooked slowly enough to have it ready at a certain time.

Why cloud connect? This process can be automated. Better yet, once you have your favorite recipe, this process can be REPEATED. Imagine selecting your meat, type and weight, then indicating which temperature profile you want or what time you want it done and that’s it. Just go and entertain your guests, not your BBQ.

This is a histogram of a 4hr period of the internal roast temperature.  The probe goes from about 75F room temp to 35F cold roast, and then follows the internal cooking temperature over the time period.  As this is stored in the cloud, along with the BBQ control data, this profile can be repeated.

The American BBQ scene is extremely vibrant. This interesting article, http://barbecuebible.com/2015/02/20/new-pellet-grills, notes how pellet BBQs are becoming popular. The HPB show displayed various technologies—pellet, IR, hybrid—and various cooking surface methods. Many brands use subcontracted manufacturing and electronics design—which turns out to be pertinent for the IoT and cloud.

While there are a number of BBQ manufacturers and brands, the field is very specialized, leading to low volume per manufacturer. This spells potential trouble as this market progresses towards IoT and the cloud, because the lower volume encourages the use of small design houses to achieve the lowest-cost connectivity and “server in my own back room” IoT/cloud methodology.

Unfortunately, this approach can lead to problems down the line, as discussed in the webcast on March 24 entitled, “Best Practices and Avoiding Pitfalls for IoT Development.” A bigger problem, though, is that as soon as volume kicks in, these pint-sized IoT setups cannot support the traffic. Vendors can end up looking and acting like “backyard” outfits rather than professional companies.

Just as in other fields that are leading the adoption of IoT as a business process change, a few leading BBQ manufacturers and design houses at the show demonstrated that they are thinking ahead. They appreciate the value of security, cloud product change management, additional service revenue potential to customers, and peace of mind that an enterprise-grade cloud platform such as Ayla Networks provides.

Look for these forward-thinking BBQ makers to be serving up the tastiest IoT- and cloud-connected solutions for fortunate customers everywhere.