Let it never be said that I don’t enjoy smoking something every now and again … pork, beef, chicken, I like them all. Just like many other blind people, I love to get together with my family and a few of my friends, hang out in the back yard, and drive everyone crazy with the delicious smell of cooking meat. In an effort to do this right, I went on a quest to find devices that were built with quality in mind, and were easy and accessible to use by a blind person.
Today, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Allan, founder and CEO of a company called iDevices. I first discovered iDevices when I was looking for an accessible way to test my meat temperature when cooking with the Bradley Smoker. Before I share my own thoughts about the iGrill and other devices made by the company, I give Chris an opportunity to shamelessly promote himself and his products.
Chris explains that iDevices was born from the concept of app-enabled devices, meaning that the hardware is only the first step in making a product the best it can be. Through patented Bluetooth technology with a range of up to 200 feet, iDevices products can be controlled from an app on iOS, and Android support is coming soon. With an app, functionality can easily be added to a device in a matter of days rather than designing an entirely new model of hardware just to implement requested features. It also opens up the possibility of incorporating things like social networking, so you can make everyone on Facebook envious with pictures of the meat you’ve cooked. Not only that, but with a device that pairs via Bluetooth, you don’t have to be right beside the product in order to control it. This will come in especially handy with the new product coming soon from iDevices, called the iShower. With this product, you won’t have to take your Bluetooth-enabled device in to the bathroom with you in order to enjoy music while you’re showering. You just pair the iShower with your device of choice, including PC, MAC, Android, iOS or any other Bluetooth-enabled device, and stream the audio to the speaker in your shower.
I’m really excited to take the iShower for a spin and review it once it’s released, but for now, let’s talk about the iGrill. When I first heard about the iGrill, I had to get one immediately. I had tested several other meat thermometers and found that the quality was just not that impressive. When I got the iGrill, everything went perfectly until I tried to actually monitor what I was cooking. At that point, Voiceover crashed, and I was understandably pretty disappointed. I’m sure you all know by now that I’m not one to give up so easily when something doesn’t work for me. Rather than taking the unit back, I decided to engage in a little advocacy. After all, I can’t possibly be the only blind person looking for a high quality, accessible solution to test the temperature of my meat, right?
I contacted the folks at iDevices and politely explained my situation. Their response was incredibly gratifying! Like many developers, they hadn’t really even considered the blind population as a viable market, but once they understood that we could use the device with a few modifications to the code in the app, they were happy to do it. Believe me. A little advocacy can go a long way. It’s not surprising that companies who develop apps for mobile devices don’t initially consider us as a viable market. After all, I myself was pretty skeptical about using a flat piece of glass to do anything productive, so I can’t fault anyone else for not immediately thinking of blind people when they develop for iOS or Android.
In any case, all it takes is to start that initial dialogue, and I think you’ll be surprised at just how often developers are willing to work with you. I was thoroughly impressed by the corporate environment that Chris has created. I first spoke to Livia in customer service, and from there began working with a developer. With every interaction, the folks at iDevices were enthusiastic about helping me to get the most out of the product, just as they would be for any other customer. Soon, the app was doing almost everything I needed it to do. There are still a couple of minor accessibility quirks to work out, but overall the device and the app are both quite usable.
There’s a whole lot to like about the iGrill. Unlike other thermometers I’ve tested, like the Oregon Scientific thermometer, the iGrill has two probes. One tests the temperature inside the meat, and the other reports the ambient temperature inside the smoker or other cooking environment. You could also use the second probe for monitoring meat temperature if you’re cooking more than one type of meat. The app allows you to choose the meat you’re cooking, and from the label in the app you can determine which probe is monitoring which cut of meat. Also, iGrill provides a comprehensive list of foods and their suggested temps, which is nice since most of us don’t carry that sort of knowledge in our heads. You can use the device inside the oven as easily as you can use it with the smoker. Just place the thermometer in the oven and shut the door on the wire, and the device monitors your meat in the same way as when you’re cooking outside. When you first bring up the application, a very accessible web page containing product videos is displayed. The videos are quite helpful, even if you’re only listening to them. The learning curve is very simple, and best of all, you can’t beat the price. The unit can be found on Amazon for $79. I encourage every blind person with a love of cooking to go out and get this device. With it’s well-designed products, excellent customer service, unbeatable prices, and commitment to accessibility, iDevices deserves every bit of support and gratitude that we can give them.
Before we close, Chris gives us some contact info for the company, and encourages your feedback. In fact, at the time of this writing, if you post an iGrill review on the app store or on Amazon and send iDevices a copy of the review, they’ll send you a free apron to protect your iGrill. To contact the company, you can send them an email, visit their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter.
Our thanks go out to Chris for taking a few minutes to visit with us, and to the entire iDevices team for making such a fantastic and accessible product!