They Should Make It: Connected Self Replenishing Refrigerator

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The home of the future will be insanely connected–everything talking to everything else. And while I don’t really care if my toaster is able to network with my coffee maker just yet, one of the things that intrigues me the most is the concept of a refrigerator that would be able to sense volume levels of certain containers and, when running low, automatically reorder whichever product was almost gone.

In 2004, LG announced a product called the Internet Refrigerator. Everyone marveled at what was basically a 15-inch touchscreen computer crammed into the right-hand door of a nice-looking fridge that cost $8,000. “Ah, this is my fridge,” I thought at first. “It’s finally here.” But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The fridge just let you surf the internet. There was nothing connected about it other than that. LG doesn’t even sell it any more, even though today more people would probably buy one assuming it was priced correctly.

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My proposal is simple and could probably be relatively easily implemented using modern day technology. The idea is to have one or more shelves with various product zones that could be customized to sense the weight of commonly purchased food items.

shelf

So for instance, you generally buy the same size and type of milk all the time, right? There would be a sensor underneath the shelf’s “milk zone” that would know what a full container of your milk weighs. When the weight of your milk container got down to a certain level–say 25% or so– the fridge would connect to the internet and order you more milk automatically.

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Or if you didn’t want it to order stuff automatically, it could add things to the virtual shopping cart of whatever grocery store you order from online and you could log in once a week and do your shopping manually. At least you’d know which items you need to reorder soon instead of looking in the fridge, seeing there’s a milk container in there, and assuming you don’t need to buy milk when the actual carton may be almost empty.

Of course, this concept would be a little tricky with oddly shaped items like fruits and vegetables but several companies, including Google, are making headway in the field of photographic recognition. So perhaps you could eventually have little cameras that recognized food items visually instead of using weight-based sensors. That’d be cool. You could hop online to do your grocery shopping and you’d have a visual list of each item in your fridge represented by the actual photo, the last time you purchased it, the estimated expiration date, and the option to buy more.

Oh, and you could surf the internet right on the fridge just like the LG one. It’d be a shame to miss out on all the insightful Twitter usage. “Looks like I need #eggs, ROFLMAO! Just another one of those #Mondays! Blah!”

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