Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Christopher Mims

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.

  • August 23, 2011

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’s new fridge includes an embedded wifi Android tablet that runs internet-connected apps

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.

The latest Insider Conversation is live! Listen to the story behind the story.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.