In praise of the dumb fridge

fridge and app
© Samsung

The fridge is a remarkable device, and a symbol of everything that is right and wrong in North America. In the last few decades it has decreased in price by two thirds, in energy consumption by three quarters thanks to tough standards. That’s good.

It has also been a trope on TreeHugger that small fridges make good cities; I explained why in MNN:

Why? Because supporting your neighborhood grocers is good for the health of your local community and main street. Because you don't need a big car to go shopping once a week in the Walmart. Because there's a lot of evidence that it's healthier. A study in Taiwan determined that people who got out and shopped every day were 27 percent less likely to die over a 10-year period than those who shopped once a week.


Which brings us to the latest “smart fridge” from Samsung. They call it "the family hub". It has a 21.5 inch touchscreen so that you can see inside without opening the doors. (it has three interior cameras) In fact you can be sitting in front of the TV and see what’s inside on your smart phone. you can also use it to order from services like FreshDirect; it connects your MasterCard to the online store to make it all effortless.

fridge screen© Samsung

And wait, there’s more. There is a calendar, a web browser, and as Tech50 notes, “You can even mirror your Samsung TV set from the other room, so you don’t miss a moment of the game/movie/sitcom while you grab a beer/more dip/leftover chicken leg.”

In "Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life," Dr. Brian Wansink noted:

In general, the larger the refrigerator, the more we tend to keep in it. And the more food options there are, the more likely something is to catch your eye as being tasty.

open fridge© Samsung

He also found that people who had side-by-side fridge and freezers tended to eat more of the less healthy stuff like ice cream from the freezer side, because it's easier to see and grab. He noted one study that showed people with side-by-side fridges were from four to eight pounds heavier than those with traditional top and bottom ones.

When LG introduced a fancy new fridge designed for grazing, they noted that “a recent survey revealed that 32 percent of the 1,000 or so American families questioned said that their refrigerator door is opened between 20 and 50 times each day, with so-called "go-to" foods ranking high among the regular quick grab and go visits.”

I wonder what Dr. Wansink will say about this, a fridge that advertises what’s inside, that lets you sit in bed and decide what to nosh on in the middle of the night, that makes the fridge the centre of the household universe, that is marketed as "the family hub."

I have previously written In praise of the dumb home, noting that smart technology doesn't always make things better; Perhaps one can say the same about the dumb fridge; it doesn't cost six grand, it doesn't advertise its contents to your phone, it doesn't make online food shopping so one-click simple so that you don't ever have to get out of the house.

Perhaps we have to revise that “small fridges make good cities” yet again to “Small dumb fridges make good cities and healthier people.”

Tags: Kitchens | Smart Home

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