Are smart fridges worth the hype?

Smart appliances are all the rage, from smart ovens to smart dishwashers to smart refrigerators. Despite all the hype, however, today’s smart fridges aren’t as smart as other smart appliances, and may never be.

How smart are smart fridges today?

Today’s smart refrigerators aren’t really smart. Unlike other smart kitchen appliances that can turn themselves on or off under specific conditions or trigger specific actions when needed, today’s so-called smart fridges essentially do the same things that refrigerators have made over the past 75 years, but with a few extra bells and whistles. .


LG ThinQ Smart Refrigerator with Wi-Fi
Image credit: LG

For example, LG’s ThinQ smart fridges include a variety of high-end features, including dual ice makers with Craft Ice, internal LED lighting, and more. The InstaView Door-in-Door feature lets you see inside the fridge without opening the door, which is nice.

Select models feature Wi-Fi integration with LG’s ThinQ app, which lets you change the temperature or order extra ice from the ThinQ mobile app or your Amazon Alexa or Google Home device. You can also receive notifications, through the app, if someone leaves the fridge door open.

While all of these features are great, none are particularly “smart”. It’s a little disappointing when you spend $4,000 or more on a high-end refrigerator only to find that the only “smart” thing it does is overpower the ice maker.

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Samsung’s Family Hub range of smart fridges offer a few more smart features. In addition to LED lighting and smart cooling, these fridges offer a large LED display on the outside of the fridge door.

The refrigerator can be connected, via Wi-Fi, to other smart devices. This lets you see who’s at your front door (via your Ring doorbell), control your home lights (via Philips Hue), monitor other rooms in your home (with Arlo webcams), adjust your home temperature (with your Nest Thermostat) and control other smart devices with voice commands (via built-in Amazon Alexa).

The Family Hub can even mirror what’s on your Samsung Smart TV and play music from Pandora and Spotify.


LG InstaView ThinQ Smart Refrigerator
Image credit: LG

Again, this is all very nice but really nothing more than what you can do with a cheap Amazon Echo Dot. That said, the Family Hub gets a little closer to a real smart fridge by adding a Quick View camera inside the fridge. This lets you use the door screen or the Family Hub mobile app to see what’s inside.

The Family Hub app lets you plan meals and create shopping lists, but you have to do these things manually—the app doesn’t take inventory of what’s inside. your refrigerator or generate purchase suggestions. RELATED: Smart Washers and Dryers: What They Can and Can’t Do

What should a future smart refrigerator do?

Just adding Wi-Fi or Alexa functionality doesn’t make a fridge smart. A real smart fridge should be able to do so much more for you—and do it automatically.


Putting one or more cameras inside the fridge, like Samsung does in its Family Hub models, could lead to more functionality, especially when paired with artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Imagine a smart fridge that:

  • Knows and alerts you when you are out of a given item.
  • Knows and alerts you when food expires.
  • Learns what foods you like and automatically generates grocery lists, then automatically sends that grocery list to your local grocery store for auto fulfillment and delivery.

Thinking outside the box, imagine a smart fridge connected to a smarter TV than the one you have today. Imagine watching a cooking show on the Food Network and seeing a recipe you love. You tell your smart TV to save the recipe and send it to your smart fridge.

The refrigerator stores the recipe and determines if you have all the necessary ingredients. If you don’t, it tells you what you need or automatically adds those items to the next grocery list. And all of this happens before the show you’re watching is advertised.

Even better, imagine a smart fridge that figures out what to cook, based on the ingredients you have on hand and a database of recipes. This would take all the guesswork out of meal planning.

The future is limitless—up to a point.

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Why we may never see real smart fridges

There are several reasons why we may never see this level of intelligence in a smart fridge, at least in the near future. It comes down to a combination of available technology and real-world usage.

Consumers are too disorganized

Remember that Samsung fridge with the built-in internal camera? To use this camera to automatically determine the foods you have on hand, the contents of your fridge should be easy to see and ideally organized in a logical way.


Side-by-side fridge full of groceries

Unfortunately, most people just aren’t that organized. In fact, the average American refrigerator is extremely cluttered with items stored where they belong. There’s no way even the smartest smart camera, aided by advanced AI technology, can make heads or tails of the typical disorganized fridge. Mustard is almost impossible to find!

Products are not RFID enabled

One solution to the cluttered fridge dilemma is to track items the same way some grocery stores do without a cashier, using RFID technology. This approach places RFID (short for Radio Frequency Identification) tags, with built-in low-frequency radio transmitters, on all items you buy at the grocery store.

The future smart fridge would have a built-in RFID reader and be able to detect which RFID-tagged products are inside and which need to be re-ordered.

The only problem with this approach is that the majority of products on traditional grocery store shelves today do not have RFID tags. The use of this technology should become universal to be used effectively in RFID-enabled smart refrigerators.

Today’s smart refrigerators: smart enough or not?

The reality is that today’s smart refrigerators don’t live up to the smart appliance hype. Adding Wi-Fi and Amazon Alexa to a high-end fridge doesn’t make for a true smart device.

If you want a real smart fridge that can monitor food usage and automatically generate grocery lists, you’ll probably have to wait a bit. At least until smart technology catches up with the disorganized way most people use their fridges.


tablet in a kitchen showing a recipe
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About the Author

Karl M. Bailey