Every year at CES, internet fridges delight the masses (of journalists) who scurry off to write arch pieces on the internet of things.
I didn’t attend CES, but nevertheless I’d like my oportunity to shout into the wind.
Please. I need this.
Some pieces are quite measured, of course. This excellent article in the FT looks upon these hulking connected devices as pointless but indicative of the falling cost of technology and slightly less silly in the context of the rising importance of the messaging app.
I find it hard to be so level-headed.
Take a look at the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator below, the fridge that sounds like it was named by a Tory party policy advisor. Take your time to read the copy and count how many times you snigger. Four? Me, too.
Oh, for the good old days of a big block of salt.
Do I have a point, an over-arching point? Can I properly vocalise what it is I find so misguided about the internet fridge?
I will try, but first, to dissect the Family Hub in more detail.
The fridge takes selfies, so you can inspect these in the cloud, sat on the bus, or at your desk about to leave work, and then determine if you have any milk in the fridge.
One problem with this – your fridge is pretty full but you don’t know if you have any cheese for a recipe you want to cook.
How do you see the cheese if it’s lurking in tupperware or hidden behind a lettuce? How do you know if your milk is out of date, what if the miniscus lurks somewhere below the fridge door bottle holder (do you have enough for cereal?).
Second problem – technology is generally supposed to make your life easier or more fun. Looking at fridge selfies on the internet is neither.
Third problem – if anyone sees you doing it, the repercussions are huge.
N.B. A company called Smarter has developed a standalone fridge camera and a fridge mat, which you place a bottle on (e.g. milk) and can then notify you when the contents are running low (it’s essentially an IoT balance).
Again, remembering to place your ketchup on a $100 mat seems to be a lot of work for very minimal reward (perhaps saving you twice a year from eating a meal without ketchup).
If the bottle contained some miraculous life-saving liquid, then I would see the point.
— Smarter Applications (@Smarter_AM) January 5, 2016
Messaging on my fridge
The note on the fridge used to be a big cultural thing. But that was before the internet. Want to get a message to someone now, do it via their phone.
Want to do it in a convivial, ‘connected family’ way? Use a WhatsApp group, or similar.
I imagine a fridge messaging system would be fun for a month, but quickly abandoned (much like magnetic lettering used to be, destined only to spell out ‘poo’ and ‘wee’ for the next 10 years).
Weather reports on my fridge
Already everywhere else.
Radio on my fridge
Already on phone.
TV on my fridge
Okay, synching the fridge to your Samsung TV in the lounge, so your favourite show can follow you between rooms, sounds like it might be a cool feature.
But you’d have to stand in front of the fridge to watch it. If you are using the sink or the worktops, there’s no way you’ll be able to see the fridge (unless you’re lucky enough to have an ‘island’).
A second TV (with a Chromecast or similar?) or a tablet is a much more functional, flexible and affordable option. Better all round.
How often do we buy fridges?
That FT article makes a fantastic point. Nobody is changing their fridge at the same rate they change their phone. If they did, the environment wouldn’t thank us for it.
If fridge IoT technology continues to improve, will customers be left with embarrassing white-elephant white goods? A regular fridge never goes out of style.
Too many connected devices
If the connected home is nearly upon us (I think it is, in parts), I will have to deal with the important things first – heating, security of doors and windows, plug sockets, lighting, oven, coffee maker.
How well are we prepared for the complexity this will bring?
I think a lot of it is welcome (Hive and Nest are doing well), but with it will come the relief of owning some objects that don’t have to be connected. Like shoes, hammers and….fridges.
The real-time cheddar cheese auction?
I want to end by tipping my hat to Ciaran O’Kane in Exchange Wire, who has proposed a system whereby when items run-out in your fridge, an RTB auction starts for the chance to send you adverts/vouchers for replacement items.
Ciaran uses cheese in his example (see pic below).
My first thought on seeing this was ‘why would food manufacturers want to opt in?’
If I made cheese, I wouldn’t want RFiD chips involved so other cheese makers could bid on my loyal customers (even if it was incentivised).
Secondly, I hate unsubscribing from emails, so why would I want even more noise in my messaging apps?
Thirdly, if I only want offers for certain produce, do I have to change lots of preferences? Are RFiD chips wasted 95% of the time (until we all get these smart fridges)? That’s a lot of extra packaging and waste.
Maybe Ciaran’s article is a wind up. If so, I’ve been had, hook, line and sinker.
Essentially, my main point is that the internet fridge might be appealing to a small group of control freaks but will never have broad enough appeal to succeed.
Micro management is not appealing. Please prove me wrong in the comments.
For more on the internet of things, see our marketer’s guide.