These days, pretty much any kind of device or appliance you can buy is available in “smart” varieties. You have smartphones, of course, but you also have smartwatches, smart thermostats, smart TVs, and even smart refrigerators.
So, what is a smart refrigerator, exactly? Simply put, it’s a refrigerator that is able to connect to a wireless network, typically either Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or 5G. This connectivity allows the fridge to provide you with more features than you’d typically get from a “normal” version of that device.
Today, we’ll be going into more detail about smart refrigerators and the types of features they usually offer, and we’ll be sharing with you everything else you might want to know about these appliances.
What Is a Smart Refrigerator?
A smart refrigerator, also known as a connected refrigerator or an internet refrigerator, is a refrigerator that is connected to the WiFi and internet. Smart refrigerators have actually existed for over two decades now, although it’s only since the 2010s that they’ve become particularly popular.
Smart refrigerators were initially a somewhat poorly-received product since they were considered gimmicky and unnecessary. In addition, they were also absurdly expensive; the first smart refrigerator released to the public, the LG Internet Digital DIOS, cost over $20,000 in 2000, which adjusted for inflation is about $30,000 in today’s money.
These days, while smart refrigerators are still a fair bit more expensive than standard refrigerators, their prices have become much more reasonable. In general, the average smart refrigerator is usually priced between $3,000-4,000 (although models that are more and less expensive both exist).
Still, that’s usually at least several hundred dollars more than you’ll typically pay for a standard refrigerator, so what exactly is it that you get for all your extra cash? Read on, and we’ll explain it all.
What Features Does a Smart Refrigerator Usually Have?
Not all smart refrigerators have exactly the same features, but there are several common features you’ll find available on most smart refrigerators you can currently buy. The most common feature of smart refrigerators is probably the touchscreen interface.
Features to Help with Meal Prep
Through this interface, you can perform many functions, including creating grocery lists that will sync to a connected smartphone and using the touchscreen as a digital whiteboard to leave messages for other family members.
Since smart refrigerators are basically a fridge hooked up to a computer, you can use them for a ton of stuff that you might use a laptop or a tablet for. Many smart refrigerators allow you to browse the internet, shop online and even send messages to other people through the interface.
Smart refrigerators can also make meal prepping more convenient and entertaining. You can use your smart fridge to display the recipe of whatever you’ve trying to make, and since many smart refrigerators contain built-in speakers, you can easily play music or watch a video in the background while cooking. Some smart fridges even allow you to cast from other devices to your fridge’s touchscreen.
Features to Keep Track of Your Food
However, if you want to talk about the most useful feature that smart refrigerators tend to have, then that would probably be their ability to keep track of how much food you have left and when it all expires.
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On more basic smart refrigerators, you may have to manually register all the food you put in your fridge, but with more advanced models the fridge can actually scan the barcode or RIFD tag on each food item and automatically register everything. This means you can find out what’s still in your fridge simply by checking your fridge’s interface or through a connected app.
In addition, many smart refrigerators sold today contain cameras that allow you to see exactly what’s in your fridge at all times, even if you’re not at home. You can use a connected smartphone app to access the camera and check the contents of your fridge whenever you want.
Even if your smart refrigerator doesn’t have a bunch of fancy stuff like an internal camera or expiry date tracking, odds are it still has at least a few features that can help you out in the kitchen.
Most smart fridges are able to let you know about basic things that might require your attention, such as if you accidentally leave the door open or if your ice has run out.
Benefits of a Smart Refrigerator
Now you know more or less what a smart refrigerator is capable of, but the real question is how will these features actually help you in real life? Let’s address the actual benefits you can get by using a smart refrigerator.
Helps You Spend Less On Groceries
If you find it a bit challenging to keep track of all the stuff in your fridge, a smart refrigerator can help out a ton in this regard and, in turn, help you save some of your grocery money.
How, exactly? Let’s say you’re in the grocery store and you forget whether or not you need some more orange juice. You can simply check the contents of your fridge via the phone app and see whether or not you still have any juice left.
Your smart fridge can also tell you when any food items are going to expire, which might make it easier for you to remember to use everything before it goes bad. This can save you the hassle of having to re-buy fresh ingredients if you forget to use them before they spoil.
Helps You Keep Track of Maintenance
Fridges are designed to last a long time, but they do need occasional maintenance in order to run properly. The smartphone app for your smart fridge can help you keep track of what needs to be done and when.
Now you don’t need to worry about whether it’s time to clean your condenser coils or change your water filter since your fridge will let you know. Your smart refrigerator may also be able to detect problems like poor airflow or significant changes in temperature and alert you to them before your food goes bad.
In general, smart refrigerators are more energy-efficient than older, more basic types of refrigerators because they use newer technology. However, smart refrigerators are also more efficient than standard refrigerators because they’re often able to self-regulate their temperature settings in order to save energy.
Your smart fridge can also let you know if something is blocking the air circulation inside it, which can increase the energy required by your fridge to keep everything cool. Some smart refrigerators can even be programmed to run some of their high-energy features during off-peak hours.
Keeps Your Kitchen Organized
You can use the touchscreen that comes with most smart refrigerators to keep all the important information in your kitchen organized and in one place. You can look up any recipes you might need directly from your fridge, and if your fridge is equipped with speakers you can even have it read your recipes out loud to you while you cook.
Many smart fridges come equipped with digital calendars to help you keep track of your family’s chores for the day. Some fridges even incorporate a digital whiteboard into their touchscreens, allowing you to leave notes for your kids and spouse in an easy-to-find location.
Other Things to Know About Your Smart Refrigerator
The features and benefits listed above are the things you are probably most interested in knowing as a consumer, but these aren’t the only things you should know about smart refrigerators. Here are some other things that you should probably know about smart refrigerators before you make the decision to buy one.
How Long Do Smart Fridges Last?
This is a little bit of a complicated question. The hardware in your fridge that actually does the refrigeration (the condenser coils, the compressor, the evaporator, etc.) is the same as you’ll find in a standard fridge, and should therefore last you about 10-15 years in most cases. The hardware and software in your fridge’s computer, however, is another story.
Related: How Long Should A Refrigerator Last?
Because modern technology gets updated so frequently, the computerized parts of your smart fridge have a much shorter life than the rest of it. It’s not that they’ll break down per se; rather, they’ll likely be made obsolete in a few years by newer technology.
Most smart fridges use cloud-based services for many of their features, but if the provider of these services chooses to discontinue their smart fridge support, you may be left with a fridge that is far less functional than it once was.
Can a Smart Fridge Be Hacked?
Since your smart fridge contains a computer that is usually connected to the internet, the answer is unfortunately yes, your fridge can potentially be hacked. While hacking a smart fridge isn’t something you hear about too often, the risk is certainly there.
What’s worse is that smart fridges generally contain much less security than a laptop or a PC, meaning they’re easier to hack. Plus, since your smart fridge is connected to your home network, hacking your smart fridge can give hackers access to all of the other devices connected to your network.
In addition, if your smart fridge contains built-in cameras and microphones, these are things that hackers could potentially exploit. Again, it’s not too common for hackers to target smart fridges specifically, but you should still be aware of this risk before you buy one.
Can a Smart Fridge Get a Virus?
While it’s pretty rare for any kind of smart device to be infected with malware, it definitely can happen. The majority of malware is written for Microsoft-based operating systems, which is why it’s usually PCs and laptops running some version of Windows that tend to get infected with viruses. Nonetheless, malware for other operating systems certainly does exist.
For example, in 2014, over 100,000 different smart devices were infected by a virus that caused these devices to send out hundreds of thousands of malicious emails. These devices included TVs, routers, and at least one smart fridge.
Is a Smart Refrigerator Worth It?
It’s certainly true that smart fridges offer a lot of functionality over standard fridges. But is it actually worth it to buy one?
We’re going to sit on the fence with this one and say that it depends on your personal preferences. If you want the extra connectivity and cool features that a smart fridge offers and you’re willing to put up with a higher initial cost and somewhat earlier obsolescence than a standard fridge, then indeed, you might get a lot out of owning a smart fridge.
Dryer Version: What Is A Smart Dryer?
A much cheaper alternative to a smart fridge is to get a tablet with a fridge mount. The total cost of a tablet and a standard fridge is way cheaper than a smart fridge is on its own, and with the exception of keeping track of your food supply, a tablet can do basically everything the computer in your smart fridge can.