Help and advice

Will smart fridges catch on?

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the biggest events on the technology calendar, even though it feels some companies repeat themselves every year.
While manufacturers are coming up with ever more innovative ways to sell their stuff - televisions have gone from curved screens to flat ones and now they're bafflingly back to curved screens again - other household appliances manage to avoid the brouhaha.

But not the fridge.

Oh yes, the humble fridge.

You might think all you need from your fridge is keeping your food and drink cold, but according to companies like Samsung and LG, you would be wrong.

What you really need is a smart fridge that can get on your home WiFi. But why, you justifiably ask? Because of the Internet of Things.

Internet of Things

What's the Internet of Things anyway? Good question.

As we become increasingly reliant on our connections to the internet, it's likely all our households appliances will start coming with their own WiFi receivers so they can link up.

The idea is that all your gadgets will soon be able to communicate with each other, with the end result being that some of the stresses of daily life are instead handled by computers.

Smart fridges would therefore automatically know when you need to buy milk and send an alert to your smartphone reminding you to buy some. They'd also have a screen you can watch Netflix on at breakfast time, or leave notes for the family on.

They could even eventually send an order to your chosen supermarket to get food and drink delivered at a time that suits your schedule. Which, of course, the fridge would have access to, because of the Internet of Things.

But will this work, or is it a flight of fancy?

Repeated failures

A report in the Guardian notes that for many years now, manufacturers have been showing off their smart fridges at the CES, but they are yet to be a firm fixture in the home. Do you know anyone who has one? Exactly.

One of the reasons for smart fridges failing to take off is the problem of getting the fridge to know what is inside it, and therefore what needs to be replenished.

Unless you're willing to scan everything you put into the fridge into its computer, it's hard to do this. Another way is to have cameras inside fridges that calculate its contents. But the inside of fridges are dark - yes, it's true, the light only comes on when you open the door, just like magic.

So manufacturers are at an impasse.

Spam

No, not the tinned meat product, the unwanted internet communications that clog your inboxes.

Another issue with smart fridges is the security concerns, as privacy has been on everyone's mind of late as a result of the NSA scandal, which found how security agencies are monitoring all our calls, text messages, emails and internet searches.

Would you be comfortable with government bodies having access to the contents of your fridge? There has also been speculation that appliances such as smart fridges could be targeted by hackers, and if they get into your home network then all your personal info is up for grabs.

In short, while smart fridges might sound like a good idea on paper, they are actually impractical.
It seems as though fridge manufacturers perfected the technology years ago.


© Axonn 2014