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Fridge Fantasies Redux

by Tom Austin  |  May 23, 2014  |  Comments Off on Fridge Fantasies Redux

Read yet another piece where people were talking about IoT and how internet connected fridges would tell our smart phones to remind us when we came close to a grocery store that we only had 50 ml of Milk left so please pick some up. Oh, and by the way, buy brand Zed because it’s best (or so says one of 472,995 sponsors of this reminder service.)

Never mind the fantasies of the 1990’s where people were predicting — the same thing!

Think about all of the structural problems in making this come true. Even if people changed their refrigerators once every year (not very likely; there are better ways of spending money), how long will it take to modify all products you stick in the refrigerator to communicate their state to said box? What are the economics there? How do you instrument a poblano pepper to notify the crisper in the fridge that it’s getting lonely in there and it would like some more poblanos to keep it company? How much does this add to the cost of food? What’s the product life cycle for various food offerings, a factor which gates how quickly zero cost technology could be added? 

Then there’s the privacy issue. If the trash container and fridge get together and take stock of my consumption of red onions, broccoli and garlic, what kind of story could they fabricate? Maybe that my food wastage rate is 8% higher than that of other apartment owners in my complex. Or 17% less. And what if that news got out? Perish the thought (or cook it quickly so it doesn’t perish.)

I’ll confess. I don’t always keep tomatoes (fresh or canned) in the refrigerator. So how will my smart phone know to remind me about that inventory level?

A prediction: Before we have smart kitchen cabinets and smart cauliflower too, we’ll have useful (but not very smart) robots that can do a visual scan for you when you’re in the grocery aisle of your favorite food emporium and panic because you can’t remember if you’re over or understocked on jalapenos. Instead, you tell your video enabled relatively dumb remote assistant to go over to the refrigerator, open the door and point its camera at the crisper draw so you can figure it out for yourself.

And we’ll still be talking about intelligent fridge fantasies ten years from then…





Tom Austin
VP & Gartner Fellow
20 years at Gartner
41 years IT industry

Tom Austin, VP, has been a Gartner Fellow since 1997. He drives Gartner's research content incubator (the Maverick Program) and is leading a new research community creating research on the emerging era of smart machines. Read Full Bio

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