The Internet of Things (and the myth of the “Smart” Fridge)


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As product designers we live in exciting times. The next era of the continuing digital revolution, called the Internet of Things, has become a reality. But what does this “Internet of Things” really mean, and how can designers make sense of it all?

Read my full article about the Smart Fridge here:

Published in: Technology, Business
  • please share the preso if you can, naresh at nareshgupta dot in
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  • Hi Avi,

    this is Jakub, the co-founder of Estimote, Inc. This is an awesome deck and thanks mentioning us.

    There is this old concept of Internet of Things that are directly connected to the Internet through Wi-Fi or 3G and we think the better approach at this moment is to connect them throught the phone in the pocket with low-energy technologies like Bluetooth.

    And there two approaches - one is to attach BLE tags to moving objects like Tile ( and our approach at Estimote is to connect fixed locations or actually micro-locations like the fridge from the tile and create real-world context for devices like smartphone or Google Glass.

    Shoot me an email at jakub at and I will be more than happy to chat about the future of IoT : )
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  • From a Design 'Down' perspective, excellent stuff was discussed. My single point is that the data (and the sheer amount of data) to be generated, manipulated, collated, integrated, and tranlated into useful information is going to ba tsunami in front of us. Are we ready? or (to mix metaphors) are we the deer in the headlights?
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  • The appeal of the RFID technology is that it will be of massive benefit to retailers as a way to identify and track a product through its lifecycle… from the producer, through the storage, to the shop floor; It will be used to prevent theft and to maintain a real time inventory of all products in the store, sending alerts when it’s time to replace missing or expired products. Further, this technology will enable consumers to shop without standing in a checkout line. Simply by placing items into an RFID-enabled cart, the consumer will know the total cost of his groceries and will be able to pay with a swipe of a phone and a smile.
  • RFID tags are affixed to assets. Each has a unique numerical identifier so differentiation is possible. It is common for the RFID tag IDentifier to contain the Serialized Global Trading Identification Number (SGTIN) of the item to which it is affixed. This allows differentiation of identical items. - See more at:
  • Today Impinj formally unveiled its Monza® X-2K Dura and Monza X-8K Dura RFID tag chips that unlock new benefits in embedded RFID applications for consumer electronics manufacturers. By embedding RFID into tablets and other devices, manufacturers can enjoy improvements in supply chain security and efficiency, while greatly enhancing the retail customer experience.
  • The future refrigerator will be semi-transparent, the opaque smart display will tell exactly what’s inside, so we never have to open the door if we don’t need to. Neatly organized food items will be recognized and categorized via sensors. We will be able to do things like place items on hold (e.g., reserving the carrots for Sunday dinner). As you see in the image below (from the productivity future vision video by Microsoft), leftovers will have clear expiration dates, the fridge will calculate the freshness of food and automatically create a shopping list when we’re missing or are low on essential items like milk. The Smart Fridge will even be able to order these items automatically. It will suggest recipes based on ingredients in the fridge, and will even help us maintain our diets.
  • A perhaps more realistic version of the future says that the Smart Fridge will manage and keep track of our food by scanning the barcodes of items (or of a shopping receipt) as we place items into the fridge. Alternatively, voice-recognition technology will enable the tracking of items by hearing us describe them. All we have to say is “three tomatoes,” “a dozen eggs,”   or “cooked tomato pasta” when placing items into the fridge, which will then record the current date and add an expiration date, so we never eat stale food again (not that we would anyway!).
  • So the question is, will consumers be willing to use a fridge that requires them to manually scan food or place items neatly in specific spots or in special canisters so that sensors can analyze and keep track of food? Probably not.Convenience is a strong differentiator, and consumers will tend to adopt technology that is most convenient to their way of life. If Smart Fridge users have to scan items manually, or interact with a screen while placing food items into the fridge, the Smart Fridge will become a novelty and the added “smart” functionality will scarcely be used. That would be a shame.
  • Our fridge does not look like this.
  • An RFID tag is a technology that will be embedded into retail products. For example, it could be embedded in the inside of a pair of shoes or placed as a sticker on  product packaging. Its purpose would be to track and identify products using radio waves. This technology will eventually replace the need for a barcode. Each RFID tag represents a unique number for each item individually, so absolute differentiation between products is possible.  This number can be read by an RFID reader, which will then process the data through network connections and identify the product name, manufacturer, expiry date, etc. It’s important to note that the RFID tags I’m talking about here are passive. They would not transmit any data unless scanned by a RFID reader, which would then activate and read the RFID tags.
  • This is where RFID technology and the Internet of Things starts to kick in. RFID technology will eventually replace the barcode, therefore any product that has a barcode today will have an RFID tag in the future. This includes most of the food products we place in our fridge. Every product will have a unique identifier that will represent the product name and the expiry date. The smart fridge will have an RFID reader embedded in every shelf.  This reader will scan for RFID tags every time the refrigerator door is opened and closed.
  • roadmap to a future where RFID tags replace barcodes on our food packaging is still a long way off. As of now, for one thing, the cost of RFID tagging needs to be lower than one cent per tag. Current cost  averages around ten cents per tag. However, RFID technology is already in use in the retail fashion industry, as you can see in this video. The fashion industry is embracing RFID because it simply a better way to keep track of and manage inventory, specifically on higher value products like shoes or suits.
  • Stanley InnerSpace SpaceTRAX® plus RFID Smart Cabinets or RFID Cabinets are used to keep track of high value products in a wide range of markets, including healthcare, medical device, biotechnology, and security. Smart Cabinet users first identify themselves with a personal key card card to open the door.  Then they remove any item from the shelf. Of course, all items in the Smart Cabinet have RFID tags attached to them. Information is captured in real-time so managers always know what they have in stock.
  • What about fruits and vegetables or cooked food, you may ask? How can the Smart Fridge track these? And my answer is, it won’t. We don’t really need to track everything in our fridge.  I also don’t think that we should rely so heavily on technology in every facet of our lives. The average person remembers when he cooked and placed leftover pasta in his fridge. If he needs to, he can always manually add this data or create a reminder about the expiry date for himself. Using the Smart Fridge should be effortless, and smart functionality should not try to change behaviors or take over our lives.
  • Similar to Nest, The Learning Thermostat,  a thermostat that learns household users and their use patterns, the Smart Fridge of the future will also learn. This is what will make it smart.
  • It will learn and record our average food consumption. So, for example, if we replace a milk carton every three days, the Smart Fridge will understand how much milk is left inside the carton, on average, and can send us alerts when we are low. Over time, we will be able to see the patterns of our food consumption, we can determine if we are eating healthy, or we can monitor food waste due to expired products. We  will also be able to see how much we spend on our food and thus better manage our household budget.
  • What else would the Smart Fridge do? In order to make it appealing to the broadest number of consumers, a Smart Fridge should be able to do everything else that smart devices are able to do today, including a media center, a photo viewer, or even a weather app. But one thing should remain uppermost…it’s a fridge.  The average lifetime of a fridge is approximately 15-20 years. The average lifetime of a smart device like a phone or a tablet is approximately three years. Any proposed functionality should take durability of the components into account and allow future software updates and an easy way to replace or update the hardware in case of a failure. Over time, the Smart Fridge will be ubiquitous. As the technology evolves, features that were once unique and useful in the early years of the device could become obsolete and/or useless.
  • We must take into account the Kano model, which states that over time, original innovations become so widely accepted and appreciated that they become just another basic need of the consumer. Users will not surf the web or order items online while they are standing in front of a fridge. They have other devices and screens for that.   Therefore, core functionality should remain the main focus of design. In this case, the case of the Smart Fridge, the core functionality is maintaining an inventory of the food contents and their expiry dates. It will likely remain the Smart Fridge’s key feature for the duration of the product.
  • What is the difference between IoE and the Internet of Things (IoT)?According to Cisco, IoE brings together people (humans), process (manages the way people, data, and things work together), data (rich information), and things (inanimate objects and devices) to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before—turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.
  • On June 26, 1974, the first UPC bar code was scanned on a package of Wrigley’s chewing gum at a Marsh supermarket in Ohio.
  • On June 26, 1974, the first UPC bar code was scanned on a package of Wrigley’s chewing gum at a Marsh supermarket in Ohio.
  • The Internet of Things (and the myth of the “Smart” Fridge)

    1. The Internet of Things (and the myth of the “Smart” Fridge) #UXSalon
    2. @xgmediaAvi Itzkovitch UI/UX Designer
    3. 1974 Troy, Ohio
    4. The Web of Things – Image courtesy of Chragokyberneticks
    5. Connected Devices Identified Objects
    7. Body & Health Smart Home Smart City Industry & Business The Environment
    8. BODY & HEALTH Sensor devices will monitor our health, track daily our activity or remotely monitor an aging family member.
    9. Flex - Make fitness a lifestyle.
    10. The NuMetrex heart sensing sports bra and cardio shirt
    11. TweetPee: Huggies sends a tweet when baby's wet
    12. Asthmapolis – Better Manage Your Asthma
    13. AdhereTech - Smart pill bottles
    14. SMART HOME A connected home will reduce our monthly utility bills, and tell us when to water our plants.
    15. Dropcam – Wi-Fi Home Monitoring Camera
    16. August – A Safe, Simple and Social Smart Lock Set to Revolutionize Home Access
    17. CubeSensors – Improving indoor living
    18. Pintofeed – Remotely feed your pet using your phone.
    19. SMART CITY Smart cities can light their streets more efficiently, receive instant reports on hazards, and even help residents find a nearby parking spot.
    20. BigBelly Solar – The Smart Grid for Waste & Recycling
    21. Streetline - The Future of Parking is Here.
    22. Points - The most advanced sign on earth.
    23. INDUSTRY & BUSINESS Industries can optimize their operations and boost productivity by better tracking inventories and other assets while maintaining quality control and consistency in their products and services.
    24. Fliike – Grow your social community from your store.
    25. FedEx SenseAware A tracking device and web service for packages
    26. Estimote Beacons
    27. R2-D2
    28. Knightscope Autonomous Data Machines
    29. THE ENVIRONMENT The environment can be monitored for a better understanding and management of natural resources or send us advance warnings of a pending disaster.
    30. The Air Quality Egg
    31. UC Berkeley - Floating Sensor Network
    32. Assessment of Landslides using Acoustic Real-time Monitoring Systems (ALARMS)
    33. Designing with Sensors
    34. The networking giant Cisco predicts a world where 50 billion devices could be connected to the internet by 2020.
    35. ENERGY HARVESTING The search for a zero level of entropy where the device or system will have to harvest its own energy.
    36. The required RF-energy is created by the mechanical actuation of the switch
    37. Batteryless TV remote control from Arveni for Philips
    38. Pavegen - Green Energy from Footsteps
    39. Fibre based solar cell and power storage (Ohmatex)
    40. Onzo Smart Energy Kit - Wireless electricity monitor
    41. The Clicc Solar Panels
    42. 1974 Troy, Ohio
    43. 1974 - 8:01AM Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio
    45. ALL ABOUT RFID Radio Frequency Identification
    46. The first use of RFID was in the 1940’s to identify and differentiate military aircraft.
    47. Building access systems
    48. Cashless parking
    49. Passports
    50. Credit Cards
    51. IMEI and MAC addresses for both 802.11 WiFi networks
    52. RFID Tags RFID Reader RFID Information Processing Systems
    53. RFID Tags RFID Reader RFID Information Processing Systems Sensors: photo-eyes, motion detectors, environmental monitors Automation: triggers, servos, motors, robotics
    54. Retail Transportation & Logistics Government Healthcare Security
    55. Connected Devices Identified Objects
    56. RFID Keys
    57. SO HOW WILL THIS WORK? The future Smart Fridge
    58. Barcode Objects
    59. Inventory Shrinkage (Shrink) Reduction RFID Retail • Track retail items between point of manufacture or purchase from supplier and point of sale. • Real-time notification of security when RFID tagged items leave area without payment • Competitive advantage – saving money on theft allows to offer product at lower prices RFID Smart Labeling • Monitor unattended inventory RFID Retail • Automatic item identification on mixed pallets • "Smart Shelf" systems – designed to provide real time tracking and lovating of tagged items on shelves • Shipping and Receiving applications • Shelf Stocking RFID Retail • Real-time notification of out-of –stock items • Improvement of product replenishment • Retention of consumers who may turn to competitors if inventory item is out-of-stock • Automated charting and tracking for improved product forecasting Check-out Process • Reduce time spent in line • Reduce labor/time cost of employees • Streamline check-out process with ability to scan multiple items and pay for them all at once Overhead Reduction • Track product shipping and receiving from point-to-point automatically versus manual tracking to save time and labor cost • Know how many units of inventory or on-site via automated RFID system versus manual process, saving labor and time cost • Efficiency in error reduction reduces manual labor cost
    60. Smart Cabinet Stanley InnerSpace SpaceTRAX® plus RFI
    61. WHAT WILL MAKE IT SMART? The future Smart Fridge
    62. 56 % 27 %
    63. DOES IT NEED A SCREEN? The future Smart Fridge
    64. We're moving to a world in which every device generates useful data, in which every action creates „information shadows‟ on the net. --TIM O’REILLY | FOUNDER AND CEO, O’REILLY MEDIA
    65. The Internet of Things
    66. The Internet of Everything
    67. 1974 - 8:01AM Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio
    68. 1974 - 8:01AM Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio Cashier Sharon Buchanan (30 yrs later)
    69. 10-pack of Juicy Fruit, Smithsonian Institution
    70. Thank you  Avi Itzkovitch @xgmedia