We often think about electronic digitally-aware driven refrigerators (and other kitchen white goods) as the ‘real future’ promised by the Internet of Things (IoT) at the outset, but how long before these devices start ordering our shopping for us?
The problem with IoT refrigerators is that they are really good, but not quite what our almost ‘cartoon-inspired’ vision of the future promised us in our minds eye — well, not quite yet.
IoT refrigerators are good at predictive maintenance functions, performing at extremely high performance specifications in mission critical environments (such as healthcare) and even presenting us with front mounted interactive touch-screens, but they’re not quite ordering our groceries for us yet.
Liebherr Appliances is aiming to be one of the forerunners in this space and Internet of Business has already reported on the firm using intelligence to predict a potential breakdown of commercial refrigerators and freezers.
Service tickets generated automatically so that problems are fixed immediately — and this is crucial for maintaining proper storage. Great, but will it tell me when I have run out of peas? Not quite.
The company is also working with Microsoft to develop its smart refrigerator line. But again at this stage the firm is focused on the pharmaceutical industry, which requires extremely reliable refrigeration performance to store sensitive substances such as medicines, vaccines or insulin.
Microsoft Windows 10 IoT Core
The deployments in this case depend upon Windows 10 IoT Core and connect to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to perform the data analysis needed to give these machines intelligence, supplied remotely.
Windows 10 IoT Core is a version of Windows 10 that is optimized for smaller devices with or without a display. “Windows 10 IoT Core utilizes the rich, extensible Universal Windows Platform (UWP) API for building great solutions,” insists the firm.
But can Azure Stream Analytics for real-time predictive analysis order me a new pint of milk when I hit the Cornflakes too hard? Yes, it could, but that’s not quite how it is being deployed in this instance.
Again this product works at a comparatively industrial level i.e. when there is a danger of damage to stored products, the software intelligence that ships with the system will generate a service ticket (i.e. a request for a service technician) using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM package.
Samsung has looked to finally bring the ‘Jetsons’ experience home to us users with its Family Hub refrigerator, which it unveiled today at CES in Las Vegas at the start of 2016. This machine will, to a degree, help you perform virtual food shopping.
The fridge itself has three cameras inside which the user can access via their smartphone to see what’s inside.
According to Samsung, “Even if you’re at the store and forget to check on what you need for dinner that night, the Samsung Smart Home app can take a look inside your Family Hub fridge.”
So are we satisfied yet?
We’re almost there
In truth, we are almost there, but not quite. The real future sees us using smart refrigerator to control our pharmaceutical supplies, offer us social connectivity, use in-refrigerator cameras and connection to the online shopping facilities that we want to use. But they also offer a little more.
The extra connection we could be using is when RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technologies start appearing on cartons of milk so that the products themselves start providing that extra piece of intelligence to tell the fridge how fresh they are.
But we know when we bought the milk anyway, so we should know when it’s stale right? Yes almost, but what if the milk (or any other food product) had been frozen and then refrigerated?
What if some other factors were also affecting how fresh or consumable the product is? Let’s just say I had bought some frozen Canadian lobster and completely missed the news reports telling me that a huge mercury content health scare was developing.
There are (arguably) just a couple more intelligence layers we could add in and some of the problem is working out what we as users want from smart refrigerators in the first place.
After that, it will be down to the software application development professionals who work to deliver Internet of Things technologies to make it happen.