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Take for example fridges. We are way past the times these were just ordinary household appliances that did one thing and one thing only, keeping food cool.
Our modern day fridges are high tech wonders that are gradually becoming more like personal assistants.
The latest refrigerators are connected to the internet, keep track of which groceries you need to stock, which foods are due to be tossed in the trash, allow us to synchronize our agendas so we know who’s cooking and who is joining for dinner, and even come with recipe suggestions based on which foods are present in the cooler.
But are these latest, almost futuristic features improvements? Let’s take a look at how useful these newest features really are.
Extra cool, longer fresh feature
Many new fridges have technology that keeps produce extra fresh. Apart from the conventional cooling area and the freezer they have another section for this purpose. Different names such as Crisperbox, Everfresh, VitaFresh, Biofresh, or Neofrost are given to pretty much similar features.
Basically these are extra cool fridge segments in which the lower temperature keeps produce fresh longer. Most cool at or just above 32 F or 0 degrees Celcius.
Some do this in combination with a humidity adjustment feature. Often there are two compartments. One for harder, less moist veggies and fruits that are kept better in lower humidity. The other drawer for green leavy veggies and salads that are better preserved on higher humidity.
Apart from extra cooling and humidity control the Siemens’ KG38QAL30 Freshness Center for example, also has a vacuum drawer. Here you put fish, meat, and other food that spoils easily.
Useful because they really seem to keep food fresh longer. Maybe not that relevant if you are able to go to the farmer’s market each other day but for most people this may be a handy feature. Don’t we all occasionally have to throw away some tainted lettuce?
In-door tablets with apps
The at $3,500, somewhat pricy Samsung T9000 comes with an integrated 10 inch tablet with apps. It is one of Consumer Reports’s top-rated refrigerators.
What does this tablet offer?
With the Evernote app you can share grocery lists with other users.The Epicurious app helps you find recipies based on what’s kept in the fridge. Minor downside though, you have to manually enter which foods are in it.
This applies to the expiration date app too. You can set expiration dates of individual foods so the fridge will warn you when they are out of date. But do you see yourself doing this every time? We are busy enough and already spend too much time behind interfaces. As long as this keeping track of what’s in it and how long it stays fresh isn’t done automatically, based on RFID tags or bar codes, this feature is not for me.
The shared grocery list app could be very useful. In a household with more people doing the grocery shopping it’s easy to know who buys what. It also has a Google Calender app to see who’s home to cook. And who joins dinner. Or not. The other features, not so much. At least not for me. What do I need a photo sharing app or the local weather for on my fridge?
Most new fridges have French doors. This results in equal wide shelfs that are also easily adjustable.
You’re just languishing that ice cold beer to quench your thirst when you find out there’s no cold beer left in the fridge. LG’s blast chiler ends such frustrations. It allows you to cool a bottle of wine in 8 minutes and a 12 ounce can in just 5 minutes.
It’s nice to have for those few times it will come in handy but I see it more as a luxury than a real improvement.
In-door TV screens
Various manufacturers including Samsung, GE, and Kitchen Aid are now offering built-in monitor screens. LG has a 13.1″ in-door color monitor that is DVD, satellite and Internet compatible. It may seem as proposterous luxury but if you think about the space you will safe by removing your TV from the kitchen counter you may think otherwise.
Useful for tv addicts living in small spaces.
“Open door” alarms and temperature drop alarms aid keeping your food at a safe temperature thus reduce food waste. They also make you aware of keeping the door open for too long thus potentially reducing your energy bill.
In-door water and ice dispensers
Popular for a while are in-door ice and water dispensers. Being able to get cooled water and ice without opening the doors safes energy and thus costs. Such features are pretty repair sensitive though.
Hot water dispenser
GE’s Cafe French door refrigerator allows you to dispense hot filtered water in 4 pre-set temperatures. You can choose from 90,150,170,185 degrees Fahrenheit to very easily make tea, hot coco, or soup. One of the main benefits, the consistency. You can trust the hot water is the same temperature every time.
Where’s the fruit ripening gas detection feature?
Here’s a feature I would like to see in new fridges.
Ethylene gas absorbers are nothing new. For those who are not familiar with the little blue apples you can put in your fridge. These help you manage the fruite ripening gas.
In ancient China they burned incense to incense to ripen fruit faster. They did this because they knew that when incense is burned it emits a gast called ethylene which speed the ripening process. All fruits and veggies emit this odor- and tasteless gas. Some more than others. (by the way it’s harmless too)
The saying ‘one bad apple spoils the barrel’ comes from an overripe or rotting apple spreading the fruit ripening gas thus speeding the ripening or spoiling of all apples close to it. This happens especially when fruit or vegetables are kept in a confined space like a fruit bowl, a bag, or a fridge drawer.
That’s why keeping certain high ethylene emitting foods away from others can keep your fruit and veggies fresh longer. Or you can make that unripe . faster by sticking it in a bag with a ripe banana.
More variety in compartments and cooling temperatures allows for better control of the ripening gas. A feature that sucks the gas out of the fridge would bre nice though. This would eliminate the need for the preserver disks or the Debbie Meyer Green Bags even though they work fine.
Wrapping it up
I don’t need a calendar app on my fridge. And until storage lists are kept automatically I’m not interested in most apps making use of what’s stored.
The Internet of Things often encompasses wifi-enabled smart fridges that allows users to Tweet via a touchscreen embedded on the door.
Lets face it, tweeting via a fridge doesn’t have much to do with the next wave of the social web.
A truly smart fridge serves consumers already equipped with smartphones with more useful information and greater convenience.
Separate drawers for most used food stuffs, slide-away shelves for larger items so you don’t have to rearrange your whole fridge for the larger items are neat. Wonder why these haven’t been introduced sooner. However, collapsible or convertible shelving comes in most new fridges nowadays.
What I would like though is a more quiet fridge. I have a Siemens but it’s kind of loud aI can hear the motor start up every half hour or so. Since I live in an apartment with an open kitchen it can be a tad bit annoying once in a while.
Which innovative feature do you want in your fridge? Weigh in below
Image credit: x-ray delta one