A View from Christopher Mims
Do We Really Need an Android-Powered Fridge?
The worst thing about “smart” appliances isn’t that they’re redundant. It’s that they missed an opportunity to become part of the Internet of Things.
The worst thing about the Samsung RF4289HARS isn’t that for $3,500, you get a little Android LCD touch-screen embedded above the ice maker whose 9 apps you can’t even update. It’s that it represents a missed opportunity.
Samsung seems to be hell-bent on making all its appliances “smart” in the dumbest way possible. From users returning their “smart” TVs because their apps make them unusable to, well, gilded fridges that Tweet, the company seems to be designing from the perspective of “what can we cram into this device?” rather than “how can we enhance the experience of our users?”
A really smart fridge, part of the Internet of Things, would know when you put that lettuce in the crisper, so it could alert you when it was about to become inedible. It would tweet its current temperature so you know when your kid failed to close the door all the way. A really smart fridge probably doesn’t even have a display – far better to control it from any other internet-connected device.
The cynical view of Samsung’s move to embed a tiny tablet in its fridge is that these devices have become so cheap that sticking one in a fridge hardly makes any difference to their margins. It’s just one of those features – like a pop-up spoiler on the back of a luxury sports car – that makes a buyer feel like they got their splurge’s worth. If that’s the case, we can all look forward to Android-powered microwave ovens and clothes washers.
But those would be missed opportunities, too. Our appliances are supposed to talk to one another. They’re all supposed to get their very own address on the Internet – that’s why we need the expanded IPv6 standard, remember? Looks like we’ll have to wait a while yet until a device manufacturer with vision gives us something truly surprising and useful.