AUG 13, 2022 / Gadgets

Everything you need to know about smart fridges

You’re likely to have a smart phone, and it’s probable that you’ve at least experienced a smart speaker or smart display of some sort.

But smart fridges? Do we need our fridges to have intelligence beyond keeping food cool and turning on that little light when we open them up?

Here’s what you need to know about the world of smart fridges, and why one might be a smart buy for your next kitchen renovation.

What makes a fridge a “smart fridge”?

When we talk about smart fridges, we’re talking about fridges with some kind of interface – typically a touchscreen on the exterior – and a level of internet connectivity.

Combine those two features, and you’ve got a fridge that can do more than simply keep the veggies fresh. Feature sets do vary by manufacturer and price, but most will at the very least allow the fridge door to be used as a smart display for features like calendars, family memos and recipe recall.

The smart features don’t have to stop there, however. Most smart fridges also employ interior cameras that let you look inside the fridge without opening the door. You may be wondering why that’s a desirable feature, given most fridge doors aren’t especially tricky to open for most of us.

There’s an outright environmental and power benefit for a start. Opening your fridge door always affects the internal environment, requiring more power to stay cool.

Some smart fridges using the combination of external display screen and internal cameras to temporarily go transparent. This means you can literally look inside your fridge with the door shut when you’re in the kitchen.

Combine that camera with Internet connectivity, and you can also check your fridge contents when you’re out doing the weekly food shop.

This can put an end to pondering if you’re about to run out of milk, or buying too much of an item you’re already well stocked of.

Food waste is a big problem in Australia. Being able to track your fridge contents and food quality can go a long way to reducing waste and trimming down your weekly food bills as well.

In the smart fridge space there’s also a lot of scope for smarter in-fridge optimisation, led by the front-facing touchscreen.

Most fridges will let you shuffle shelves or dividers around physically, but some smart fridges take that further. They let you set specific temperature zones, intelligently managing cooling routines. 

Many smart fridges will also work with other smart home appliances and smart home assistants, so you can talk to your fridge.

Not so much in that deep and meaningful way where you ponder your love life, but more to bring up recipes, or play a YouTube video to entertain the kids while you chop ingredients for dinner.

What are the downsides of smart fridges?

The underlying technology is clever, but that doesn’t mean that a smart fridge is a must-buy prospect.

For a start, there’s a serious price premium attached to most smart fridges.

You’re typically talking $3,500 or more, with the absolute top of the range systems coming in at over $10,000. That’s a lot to pay for a fridge.

While a smart fridge won’t stop keeping your food cool if your broadband goes offline, it will lose most of its “smart” features if your internet connection isn’t up to scratch.

That’s not just a question of a bad NBN line per se, but also whether your kitchen is in an area with good Wi-Fi coverage.

If your phone or tablet struggles while in your kitchen, it’s not going to be any different for a smart fridge.

There are also security and software upgrade considerations to take into account. It’s unlikely that hackers will care too much about your selection of soft cheeses.

But they will care about the accounts that you connect your smart fridge display to. That’s especially true if they can use those accounts for further social engineering (“phising”) style attacks on others.

The track record for smart fridge updates over the likely 10-15 year life of most fridges isn’t superb. This means that some services may become defunct even if the fridge itself is still powering along nicely.

There’s also the question of brand choice. LG and Samsung are the two biggest players in the smart fridge space, with annual new models in their premium ranges, but beyond them you’re looking at a very limited subset of models from other makers.

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Alex Kidman
Tech Journalist