At least three smart June Ovens have turned on in the middle of the night and heated up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The ovens’ owners aren’t sure why this happened, and June tells The Verge that user error is at fault. The company is planning an update that’ll hopefully remedy the situation and prevent it from happening again, but that change isn’t coming until next month.
One owner’s oven turned on around 2:30AM and broiled at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for hours while he slept, and he only noticed when he woke up four hours later. Nest cam footage captured the exact moment it turned on: the oven illuminates his dark, empty kitchen in a truly Black Mirror-like recording. This owner says his wife baked a pie around 11:30PM the night of the preheating incident, but she turned the oven off once she took the pie out.
The June Oven debuted in 2015 as a $1,495 countertop oven that uses a camera and computer vision to identify food that’s been placed inside. The company raised nearly $30 million in funding and released its second-generation version in 2018 for $599. It’s billed as “seven appliances in one”: an air fryer, dehydrator, slow cooker, broiler, toaster, warming drawer, and convection countertop oven. It also pairs with an app that allows people to choose their temperature and cooking settings, as well as live stream their food as it cooks thanks to the built-in camera.
Since its launch, competitors have sprung up, including Tovala and Brava, all with the promise to make cooking easier. People can monitor their food through an app, ensure it’s prepared perfectly, and, in some cases, subscribe to a food delivery plan that complements the oven. However, with that connected promise comes a risk: the oven is always available through the tap of an app, which can be both good and bad. Sure, someone can turn their oven off from work if they realize they left it on, but on the flip side, they can also accidentally turn their oven on in the middle of the night.
Two other second-generation June Oven owners have posted about similar remote preheating incidents in a private June Owners Facebook group with slightly over 2,000 members, which was seen by The Verge. The first documented overnight preheat occurred in May. A group member wrote that he roasted potatoes around 5PM one night and left them to cool in the oven. He apparently forgot to take them out. The next morning, he awoke to find that the oven had turned on at 1:20AM and baked at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours and 32 minutes. The potatoes, which were still in the oven, burned to a crisp. “Had I not left the potatoes overnight, I may have not realized it had turned on in the night,” he wrote.
The New York City Fire Department says “unattended cooking” accounts for 33 percent of home fires, and that fires typically start when a stove or oven is near items that can catch fire, like paper towels, or when food or grease is left in the oven. None of the June Oven owners reported fires.
A third June owner wrote in late July that her phone woke her up at 6:30AM with a push notification saying that the oven had preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and was ready to cook. She wrote that she had previously been unplugging her June every night, after she heard the initial reports about the ovens turning on in the middle of the night. “This is dangerous and unacceptable, and I certainly don’t want this oven coming on while I am on vacation,” she wrote.
June CEO Matt Van Horn says that owners, not the oven, are at fault. “We’ve seen a few cases where customers have accidentally activated their oven preheat via a device, figure your cell phone,” he tells The Verge. “So imagine if I were to be in the June app clicking recipes and I accidentally tapped something that preheated my oven, we’ve seen a few cases of that.”
June shipped one owner a new oven in response, but said it was because of unrelated issues. June’s support team blamed Amazon’s Alexa assistant for another owner’s accidental preheat and says it worked with the Alexa team to figure out what happened. One owner says he could have potentially tapped something on the June app when he force closed all his apps that night before bed, and June says this is what happened.
“It’s a really wonderful feature to be able to remotely preheat your oven, and it’s a completely new world that’s very exciting, and there’s things that happen,” Van Horn says. “People have always joked about the butt-dial, like I didn’t mean to call you, and so these are just the types of things in software that we just have to be mindful of and build great features around to make our customers happy.”
At the time of the third incident, Van Horn posted in the Facebook group that the June team takes the “accidental preheating seriously,” and that they’re working to address the issue.
Van Horn says the team will issue an update in September that’ll allow owners to disable remote preheats. Remotely starting preheats will still be allowed by default, however. Allowing owners to disable their remote preheat is a step in the right direction, but it also might not go far enough.
June will issue an update in September
Next year, June plans to update its ovens with the ability to recognize when there isn’t any food inside it. The heating elements will be turned off after a certain amount of time if food isn’t detected. Van Horn says the feature will work similarly to when Netflix asks viewers if they’re still watching something after a program has been playing automatically for a while.
Although June is blaming the owners for the remote preheats, not hardware issues, the fact that these situations occurred in the first place speaks to the broader fear of connected devices. A connected oven might seem cool at first, and in theory, it’s probably better to get a notification about your oven being on instead of discovering it whenever you happen to walk into the kitchen, but it also comes with the added risk of an oven preheat being a tap away.
It’s 2019, and these are the issues we have to grapple with: will I accidentally trigger my oven while I’m in bed scrolling on my phone?