With the advent of smartphones, smart TVs, and even smart homes, it was always on the cards that that stalwart of the kitchen, the refrigerator, would ‘wise up and join the smart crowd. Using Wifi, all of the above items can function at the click of a button- or a thumb-slide on a touch screen- from your phone, tablet, or similar, and life gets easier; or is it simply busier?
A refrigerator needs Wifi to notify you when the door is not closed correctly, or if you’re about to run out of milk, etc. It can also provide you with notes you have left on the fridge door or inform you that the temperature inside the fridge is too low or too high, all remotely, via Wifi.
At first, the thought of owning an appliance that talks back to you might seem a little cavalier, and I indeed turned my nose up at the concept when I was given this assignment, but really, who doesn’t want efficient help in the kitchen? No more soured milk, no running out of items, and one unit will even heat water for your morning beverage. (I kid you not.)
There is so much that these appliances can do now that they do deserve to be called ‘smart.
What Is a Smart Refrigerator, and Is It Worth It?
Simply put, a smart refrigerator is a refrigerator with Wifi. It is connected to the cloud, and it can communicate with you wherever you have Wifi. It’s obviously password protected as all wifi units should be, but this has the dreaded possibility of entertaining a neighborhood kid for hours if you are careless enough to leave your unit sans a solid password, and one can only imagine the chaos…
Is the added price for the wifi feature ever going to be recouped from the savings on spoiled produce, worn seals, blown lights, etc.? Probably not, and if this is your primary concern, then this might not be the toy for you.
Conversely, if your pocket doesn’t gasp when required to fork out an extra U$1000.00 to U$2000.00 for the added feature, and if the convenience of getting information from the refrigerator while sitting in a coffee shop beside the supermarket is just up your alley, it’s worth it. You will save time, fuel and stress, by getting accurate, up-to-date info on what your refrigerator contains – and in what condition – before you even leave the store.
What Features Do Smart Refrigerators Offer?
Not all units have the same features, but:
- In some models, there are cameras mounted internally, so you can see precisely what your unit contains
- Some have touchscreens, and you can receive and send notes, comments, etc., to this screen and access the calendar facility. These touch screens allow you to look up recipes, a great feature on a high-quality refrigerator-door screen, and even watch TV. Since it’s wifi-enabled, you will be able to read your favorite blogs, play music, and access YouTube and the like.
- It can let you know if the ice is running low
- Coordinate schedules for family and staff members
- Grocery and other lists can sync to your smartphone in real-time
- Heat water when required
- As discussed, leaving a door open is now a thing of the past
- It can inform you of software updates
- Energy monitoring
- Once you set expiration dates on food, it will inform you when salmon is close to salmonella.
- Display photos of family, food, etc.
- Notifications to change filters will be sent to your device
- Some offer compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant
- Some provide a door-in-door feature, which allows you to reach for oft-used items without opening the main fridge, but I guess that’s more a refrigerator feature than one specific to Wifi. (Still pretty cool, though. See what I did there?)
Who Makes Smart Refrigerators?
Currently, this is limited to the usual suspects, with Samsung and LG leading the pack, along with GE, whose Café brand has joined the fray. Presumably, Hisense will be launching their wifi model in the next few months, though it’s all very hush-hush.
The Family Hub range offers a two, three and four door option, very stylish in a Stainless-Steel finish. It has three built-in cameras inside and apart from many other features already mentioned, offers a Meal Planner service, where you can plan meals based on the food inside the unit.
Preloaded with dozens of features, Samsung claims you can run all aspects of your life directly from your refrigerator.
There are To-do Lists, Memos, Calendar, Whiteboard, and Gallery on the touch screen that is standard on this range, and there is even a Trivia setting to keep the kids out of mischief while still encouraging family time.
There is a Morning Brief app to help you plan your day, and you can order an Uber service – and pay for it – via your refrigerator. What happened to yelling “Taxi” out of your window?
Go to the Samsung website for complete details of this range.
The InstaView Door-In-Door range provides some significant innovations for keeping your food cool and saving on energy costs, though if you can afford this system, I doubt price is high on your list of criteria. Rather than opening the door every time you want to select something, you knock twice on the glass front, which becomes transparent. Voila.
There is also the Door-In-Door feature, where regularly required items are accessed without opening the main compartment.
These refrigerators use the SmartHQ app and offer hot water models for that early morning cuppa but do not have a touchscreen, opting to go for solid features and not those they consider gimmicky.
They tend to focus instead on the maintenance side and ensuring solid updates but still have the more standard features, like door-open notifications, icemaker alerts, etc.
How Much Do Smart Refrigerators Cost?
Smart refrigerators cost between $1250.00 and $5500.00
Way back in 1980, a typical refrigerator would consume around 1280 kilowatt-hours per year. In 2020, it was under 500-kilowatt hours per year, thanks to improvements in materials and the appliances’ gasses.
What Sizes Are Available?
Most are from 22 to 30 cubic feet (625 – 850 liters)
Will My Smart Refrigerator Become Obsolete When a New Model Comes Out?
Being a smart unit, your refrigerator will, of course, be equipped with software that the manufacturer can update, so it should not be quickly outdated. Choose a manufacturer carefully, so this feature does not become an issue later. Is the company known for updating software where necessary on other appliances, etc.?
Are Smart Refrigerators Safe?
In 2000, the Kaspersky Anti-virus Company warned that a ‘net attack might well enter a home via a refrigerator or other appliance, even citing a possibility that the refrigerator’s door might be made to swing open in the middle of the night. What this might do to your frame of mind as you sleepily approach for a glass of milk boggles the brain.
Proofpoint Inc announced in 2014 that an attack had indeed entered via a smart refrigerator and that the hacker then sent out hundreds of thousands of malicious emails.
Always configure your modem or router with proper security and use complex passwords to ensure your refrigerator’s safety and all other wifi devices in the home. As a password, your son’s birth date might seem complex to you, but it’s more like an invitation to enter to a hacker.
Smart refrigerators can be a lot of fun. They can also be handy, particularly for the busy shopper who does not have time to waste on anything, let alone make several trips to the store instead of just one.
It’s also a genuine security risk and may allow malicious hackers – not just the kid next door- into your entire home, so be vigilant if you decide to proceed.
The price is still reasonably high, as is always the case with newer technology (although LG introduced the first smart refrigerators back in 2000), and there is an easy way to know if your cream is fresh. Taste it. Is the door still open? Close it.
A refrigerator with Wifi can be a great tool. Still, to justify the cost, you have to use its full capabilities, and simply having constant ice for Gin & Tonics, while admirable, is not enough reason to take the plunge.