Internet connected or “Smart” refrigerators have been the butt of jokes and subject to denigration in recent years. Yes, I too have maligned these devices as they have come to market, including them in the Internet of S#%t category. However, in retrospect, these initial offerings were necessary steps in product evolution that will result in the redemption and adoption of smart appliances.
Using a mix of ERP and object oriented paradigms, consider the refrigerator as the core object in managing food production and waste. This object the “Fridge” contains inventory data with the function of controlling waste. This food management object communicates with the meal planning profile (recipes) that provides data creating a bill of material sent to the procurement module which in turn, orders materials (food items) from sources providing best prices within an agreeable timeline. ERP inventory, materials, and purchasing models for the home. Farfetched? Perhaps today, but all the components exist, they just haven’t been assembled and marketed with a price point acceptable to the masses, however they will and sooner than later. Refrigerators with cameras and interfaces to the internet and smart phones are currently marketed as message boards with integrated entertainment centers, nice enough, but hardly utilitarian. Using a camera within your refrigerator to see what is inside is novel and somewhat useful, but a camera which can recognize objects and build an inventory, that provides utility. Through the integration of an intelligent camera, object recognition, barcode reader and inbound receiving functions, (including QA functions and purchasing reconciliation) inventory with expiration dates, planned usage and monitored levels for reorder (restock) can be built and easily within reach. Extending the functionality and thus the utility, this inventory object can:
- Remind us of soon to be expiring food
- Suggest new recipes designed to use items in inventory
- Control inventory levels based on historical use
- Create personal eating profiles
- Monitor per portion calorie, protein, and carbohydrate levels
- Suggest healthy alternatives
- Provide budgetary information
- Provide data to personal health systems
- Measure waste amounts and costs
What about leftovers and takeout?
Those too can be part of the inventory, as a complete assembly with a near expiration date. Some might be components of another meal, (consider hunters stew) others might be morning reminders to take the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.
- Energy savings through off peak hour defrost cycles
- Food cost savings though
- Fuel and time savings from automated food delivery
- Integration with the home internet assistant of your choice (Google, echo, Siri)
- And yes the entertainment center, message board, and phone integration
In reading, if you have you envisioned a food based version of the HAL 9000 that has control over substance and says “I’m sorry Dave I’m afraid I can’t do that” ok fair enough, a common vision in the IoT world. While we are a bit away from the fully integrated home, with appliances connected for ERP based management, we are much nearer than we are to a box filled with ice.
Keep your bits out of the bucket -b