Smart Refrigerator Basics

If you are shopping for a refrigerator these days, then you have probably noticed the new smart refrigerators that are available from some manufacturers. Samsung and LG started this trend in 2015 with several models which introduced a large touch screen tablet device embedded in the refrigerator door. This is part of the ever increasing trend of putting network connected technology in various places in our homes, with the promise of increased convenience.

Smart Refrigerator Features

You can think of smart refrigerator features as being similar to those of a tablet device such as an iPad. Smart refrigerators require a connection to your home’s Wifi network, which then allows them to connect to apps that help you make shopping lists, check your calendar or listen to music. You might find some kitchen specific features helpful, such as being able to set a timer or browsing recipes.

Probably the biggest difference between a tablet and a smart fridge is the ability to see inside your refrigerator. This capability is enabled by cameras that are inside smart fridges and are integrated with the smart refrigerator’s apps. Manufacturers have taken this a step further and integrated this capability into companion smart phone apps, so for example, you could peer inside your refrigerator while at the grocery store to determine if you need more milk or eggs.

In the future, as artificial intelligence becomes better, we may see refrigerators that automatically replenish groceries or suggest recipes based on ingredients that we already have.

Voice Activated Assistants

While the first generation lacked voice activation, both Samsung and LG have now introduced voice triggered assistants into their refrigerators. Samsung’s is based on Bixby, their proprietary voice activated software, while LG’s is based on Amazon’s Alexa software. Given the fact that Alexa has been around for longer, this probably gives the edge to LG at this time, however, given the speed at which technology moves, Samsung could close this gap soon.

Considerations Before You Buy

Price is the biggest consideration when buying a smart refrigerator. When they first came out, smart refrigerators were vastly higher priced than traditional refrigerators. The prices have come down somewhat since then, but they are still about $1500 more expensive than a comparable model without a built in tablet computer. For example, you can get a Samsung French Door smart fridge for around $2800 at the time of this writing but comparable models are selling for around $1500.

The other main consideration is the stability and quality of the hardware and software in the refrigerator. This is still an emerging market where software needs to be updated frequently. Think about how often smart phone updates come out. Much has been said about the lack of security in smart devices, which you are inviting into your home and allowing to see your data. It is worth considering whether you really want to manage yet another device that may require updates and may quickly become obsolete.