Smart fridge

The Smart Fridge will be the Center of the Smart Home.

“A smart fridge? A stupid idea, more like it.”   

Hearing about the first smart fridges, this was my initial reaction. Over the last year, I’ve proven myself a fool. The more I think about smart fridges, the more I fall in love with the idea. The humble fridge has remained substantially unchanged since they were introduced to the masses in the early 1900’s: An insulated rectangular prism with an electronic refrigeration system. Sure since the first fridges they’ve been some improvements and functional additions; but, substantially, it remains unchanged in form & function. Can the smart home change this? The fridge is well placed (literally) to be the centre of the smart home. To get there it will need to overcome some unique channels.

Why the Smart Fridge will Become the Centre of the Smart Home. 

Physical location in the home. 

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the fridge is the heart of the kitchen. A fridge typically takes up a key location in the home. This prime real estate is crying out for someone to develop it. Open-plan-entertaining kitchens make water-front property out of a kitchen.

Most residential kitchens are designed around the Kitchen Work Triangle. The work triangle proposes that kitchens should be designed to create efficient placement of the sink, stove & fridge. All placed within a triangle shape to allow efficient movement between them. Regardless, fridges are almost universally placed in highly accessible (and hence visible) locations.

Smart Fridges are well placed (literally) to be the centre of the smart home. This will be key to the success of the smart fridge. Smart Fridges are well placed (literally) to be the centre of the smart home.

Existing Smart Home-like functionality

Who’s fridge isn’t, or hasn’t at some point, been covered in wedding & birthday invites, school newsletters, & lists of chores. Fridges, because of their prime location, have always been used as method of communication. Imagine how these simple interactions could be improved through a digital interface. 

Communication:

we scrawl notes and reminders and attach them to our fridges, to remind our family members. “Hey. I’ve already fed the cat. Don’t feed it again despite how much it complains”. 

Shared Lists:

Growing up, around Christmas, my parents used to attach lists of chores to the fridge. Beside each chore was a number. This number represented the value my parents had assigned to this chore. Mow the lawn $5. Vacuum $4. After a brief cost/benefit analysis, we’d rush off to complete these chores to receive it’s the assigned value. As each chore was completed we’d cross it off signalling it as completed. 

Memories & Celebrations:

In days gone by, printed photos, awards & certificates were proudly affixed to fridges. Today, well…I can’t remember the last time I printed a physical photo. The smartphone ensures we’re taking more photos than ever, though we’re just not printing them. The smart fridge could take this tradition in the digital age. Imagine you’ve just returned from a summer family holiday, at the press of a button your favourite snaps are not displayed proudly in your home.  

Visual & Voice Smart Home Control

The central location and physical accessibility of a fridge also make it an ideal interaction point for smart home control. The fridge becomes the command panel for the smart home.

It seems that a new smart home hub pops onto the market every other week – (Google Home Hub, Amazon’s Echo Show). Among other things, these home hubs offer both voice & visual smart home control. The smart fridge offers a distinct advantage over these other smart home hubs. 

Including:

  • The smart fridge doesn’t take up additional bench space, in your already cluttered kitchen; the perfect spot already exists. 
  • The smart fridge doesn’t require an additional power outlet. 
  • Its central location makes it ideal for voice interactions. 

The biggest advantage however = Size

The smart fridge has far more space for hardware. 

  • Screens: Most won’t want a 20+ inch screen sitting on their bench, but built into an existing appliance that’s a different story.  The screen on a smart fridge can be massive, when compared to a standalone home hub. A screen this size opens up more possibilities. A Smart home dashboard, visible from across the room. At a glance you could see room temperatures, actives devices, front door cams & etc.        I want this. A lot. I’m hoping that by talking about it, I’ll magically speak it into existence. 
  • Speakers. Who doesn’t love to listen to music while they cook? A smart fridge’s physical size leaves room for Sonos-quality highs & lows. 

Why the Smart Fridge will Not Become the Centre of the Smart Home.

Getting into Homes – Purchase Cycle of a Fridge

The purchase cycle on a fridge is looooong. The average lifespan of a fridge is somewhere between 10-20 years. People don’t replace their fridges often, and this presents a two major issues: 

  • Getting smart fridges into homes: People only buy fridges every 10-20 years. Even if the tech is good, that’s a long time to wait for your old fridge to die so that you can get a new one. Who knows what smart home tech will look like in 5 years, let alone 20? 
  • Lifespan of the Tech vs. the Fridge: The purchase cycle & lifespan of our tech is far shorter. Do you still use the laptop you bought 20 years ago? Unlikely. Phones, they tend to last closer to 20months than 20 years.  The smart tech will be outdated well before the fridge. Will this leave you with a perfectly good fridge with ugly outdated tech stuck to it?

Making a good fridge vs. Making a Good Smart Home Hub 

A successful smart fridge must span both worlds. It must be a good fridge & a good smart device. The mix of expertise required doesn’t exist in many companies. Samsung appears to be uniquely placed in this regard, with already having a strong presence in both categories. Though I predict that we may see tech more companies taking old tech (fridges & microwaves) and adding in smart tech (Amazons clock & microwave)

The Smart Fridge, will it become a thing?

The smart fridge likely won’t be most people’s first step into the world of the smart home, it’s just too big of an investment. The benefits are many & will only increase as smart home tech become more prevalent & sophisticated. For the smart fridge to become the centre of the smart home it will need to become common. 

For the time being, the hurdles appear too big & the friction too great.  

I bought a new fridge 12 months ago.  My next fridge will be a smart one. So I guess I’ll update this post in 20 years’ time…

What do you think? Would you buy a smart fridge?