Are smart appliances really a step too far? Do we need our refrigerators ordering food for us? And are they really as clever as they’re sold up to be? Let’s take a look into the world of smart fridges and find out more about the Internet of Things.

What are ‘Internet of Things’ devices?

Online connection to the internet via computers and other mobile devices is now second nature for many of us, we’re all pretty used to the idea of the Internet involved in many facets of our lives. Sharing photos, updates of the family, catching up on news, shopping, even tapping out sparring tweets in fights with complete strangers, is just our day-to-day behaviour.

But this interaction is, primarily, a manual process. Yes, apps may allow you to control your thermostat or adjust the brightness of your lightbulbs, but these are parameters set by you and controlled by you through a smartphone or a tablet.

Now everyday items have a level of functionality that adds something more to their purpose. From white goods such as fridges, cookers and washing machines to many other applications in and out of the home, the Internet of Things connects these devices.

But how are these appliances connected?

Data of how we use these devices is sent, via cloud services, to manufacturers and businesses who collate these details. The purpose is to provide better service, with a view to greater convenience for the user, maybe even deliver faulty fridge repairs via remote online diagnostics.

What are smart fridges?

A good example of how this works is the smart fridge, but exactly how smart is it?

The principle is actually fairly simple, although the programming behind it is rather more complex. When you put your chilled or frozen goods in the smart refrigerator or freezer, it will scan the RFID chip or barcode and log that item. The details are then pulled from the Internet and saved to the fridge’s memory. It’s also possible to input the data manually.

With your shopping recorded and put away, the fridge will keep a track of your food and, as you run out, let you know what needs ordering. Of course, the next step of ordering for you isn’t so far away. In fact, having a digital assistant makes it possible.

Smart assistants for smart appliances

To add an extra level of intelligence, a new breed of smart fridges are working with home assistants such as Amazon Echo to be there every step of the way as you prepare your meals, including advising which items of food are close to going out of date and suggest using them first.

LG has released a smart fridge to deal with the nuisance of actually doing the shopping to replace food. It has Amazon’s Alexa built in, making life even easier when it comes to getting your groceries in.

The future refrigerator technology

So where do we go from here?

We’re already using our phones and digital assistants like Google Home and Alexa to help us with fitness and diets. What if our fridges decide we have just a little too much junk food put away? Could we tell a smart refrigerator to give us tough love and hold back on shopping for pizza? Could it lock unless we agree to eat our greens?

Who knows, but stepping outside this kitchen dystopia, it’s possible that the fridge really could take a more active role in our lives.

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