Cooking Dinner at Home — From the Office

It was well past quitting time, but David Mansbery was still stuck in the office. The next thing he knew, it was 8:30 p.m. His family hadn’t eaten since lunch, and dinner certainly wasn’t going to cook itself — or was it?

In 1994, David Mansbery was a busy father with an active family whose schedule rarely allowed for home-cooked meals. Growing tired of fast food, he was determined to bring the cooking back into his kitchen. He decided to create an oven that would allow its owners to cook dinner from the road.

At the time, Mansbery was president of a natural gas supply company, and NASA’s Glenn Research Center was one of his biggest clients. He pitched his idea of a hot-and-cold, remotely operated oven to Glenn, and the NASA center supplied Mansbery with Embedded Web Technology software.

Developed at Glenn in 1996, this software marries embedded systems and the World Wide Web. In other words, it lets a user monitor and control a remote device such as a space experiment — or a kitchen appliance, car, DVD player or fax machine — over the Internet.

NASA counts on Embedded Web Technology to allow astronauts to operate experiments from anywhere on the international space station using a laptop computer. This way, NASA can operate its experiments without having to install user-interface software on every space-bound instrument. To date, the technology has saved the agency an estimated $150 million.

With authorization to use the Embedded Web Technology, Mansbery formed the TMIO company to develop the Connect Io Intelligent Oven. Applying the same remote command and control concepts that NASA uses to run experiments on the space station, this oven allows its owners to cook dinner from the road using a cell phone, personal digital assistant or any Internet connection.

Before leaving for work, consumers can place fresh food in Connect Io, where it will remain refrigerated until a programmable cooking cycle begins. Users simply enter the dinner time, and the oven automatically switches from refrigeration to the cooking cycle, so the meal will be ready when they get home.

The oven even has two cavities, allowing users to prepare two dishes at different temperatures and times. For example, the chicken can cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, while the potatoes cook for an hour at 400 degrees.

Should plans change, the embedded software enables the user to adjust and control the oven settings using a cell phone, personal digital assistant, laptop or any device with a Web browser.

The technology was recognized as one of TIME magazine’s “Coolest Inventions” for 2003, as Reader’s Digest’s “Best of America” for 2004, and honored with the 2004 “Best of Innovations” award by the Consumer Electronics Association. It has made numerous television appearances on programs like CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” “Good Morning America,” “The View,” and ESPN’s “Cold Pizza.”

Built from NASA technology, too many nights of fast food, and some forward-thinking, Connect Io aims to revolutionize the cooking industry and bring the family back together for dinner.


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