What is a Smart Refrigerator?

Ken Black

A smart refrigerator is one that is equipped to sense what products are being put into it, and may even be able to determine when a product needs to be replenished. The smart refrigerator keeps track of what is in stock through a couple of different methods. The method chosen often depends on the technology available on the food package. Given the fact that the smart refrigerator is still largely in the experimental stages, the technology is still evolving.

Smart refrigerators sense the products that are stored inside.
Smart refrigerators sense the products that are stored inside.

You may use one of two different entry methods to have the smart refrigerator store inventory. The first method is automatic. If food packaging is equipped with an RFID tag, the refrigerator automatically detects what is being put into it. The other method is manual entry of the product. The information is stored in the computer to help the residents understand what is in the unit without ever having to open it.

Some smart refrigerators will be able to sense when food is fresh or about to spoil.
Some smart refrigerators will be able to sense when food is fresh or about to spoil.

One of the biggest advantages to smart refrigerator is that it can record the date so that food that is sensitive to spoiling can be closely monitored. The refrigerator may even be able to send alerts when the food reaches a point where it may be suspect. This alert may be displayed on the refrigerator’s screen or may be sent to a computer via e-mail.

Given the list of inventory in the refrigerator, the smart refrigerator can even formulate possible recipes. If you have leftover ingredients in the refrigerator and unsure what to do, this may be a good way to get rid of them before they spoil. This helps provide the user the chance to use as much food in the refrigerator as possible, cutting down on waste and additional food costs. The refrigerator may even adjust temperature and other settings so that food does not spoil as much.

Another thing the smart refrigerator can do is keep track of when things are removed from the refrigerator. Those who have roommates or children may find this feature especially useful as a way to track when things disappear from the unit. If you are able to determine what time of the day the products are disappearing, you may be able to better determine who may be taking them.

Though there are many advantages to smart refrigerators, they also have some possible shortcomings. One of the biggest drawbacks is that most foods are not currently labeled with RFID tags, meaning that an accurate inventory depends on the user manually inputting a lot of items into processing unit. Also, the unit may not be able to exactly tell how much of a product is left and when it may run out.

Many smart refrigerators include an ice maker.
Many smart refrigerators include an ice maker.

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Discussion Comments


This article is very conservative. There are low cost technical solutions that automatically keep the inventory on your smartphone, like an app for your smart phone. In the store you can check as well as get a suggested list of items to buy.

Those who say they haven't bought more than one of an item or thrown away spoiled food are lying.


@helene55, I think the people who can't handle normal appliances probably have the problem of too-large refrigerators or too-demanding families. Yes, we all have trouble remembering exactly what food we have on hand at any one time, but that is part of, well, being a human. Learning to effectively plan and keep track of your own food supply is a vital survival skill, and not something we should leave up to our appliances.


To be perfectly honest, I do not see the point of this at all. Is it so very difficult to buy refrigerators and keep them maintained in the normal way people have done for decades? I had hoped a "smart" refrigerator would mean one that was more environmentally sound and saved energy, rather than some sort of food-holding robot.


So what you are saying is, there is no such thing as a smart refrigerator and the prospects don't look good. Additionally there is very little actual benefit even if the obstacles can be overcome.

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