Telephone pranksters of yesteryear once trolled unsuspecting homeowners with the question, “Is your refrigerator running?” A yes answer would be followed up with the silly admonishment, “Well, then, you’d better go catch it!”

Today, our own cell phones are capable of placing calls about our running refrigerators -- only now it’s certainly no joke. That’s because smartphones are capable of talking with smart home appliances -- including fridges and freezers -- and alerting us if they stop running properly.

What is a Smart Refrigerator, Anyway?

At its most basic, a smart refrigerator is a fridge with a Wi-Fi connection that a consumer – using a smartphone app or a smart speaker – checks its status and controls its features.

For a home fridge to be classified as smart, it would typically include simple phone alerts to let you know, say, when the temperature rises to an unhealthy level, the door is left open, or it needs a new water filter. The more sophisticated -- and naturally, more expensive -- smart refrigerators do all sorts of useful things. And some even have taken on a starring role as the communication hub of a home.

Smart Refrigerators Trending Up

While not yet as common as smart thermostats and video doorbells, smart refrigerators are expected to gradually replace “regular” fridges, say, market analysts. For example, Grand View Research of San Francisco expects the global smart refrigerator market – which includes residential and commercial units -- to expand at a CAGR of 13.7% through 2025, from a market size of $253.9 million back in 2018.

The residential sector shows the largest share of that market, Grand View reports, and North America accounts for most of the demand, which has so far been fulfilled by three manufacturers leading the pack: LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., and GE Appliances (a Haier company).

A Look at the Latest Features in Smart Fridges

LG Electronics offers a number of intelligent refrigerator models, including a series that works with its proprietary smartphone app and with the most popular smart speakers.

Star of the lineup is the Smart Wi-Fi Enabled InstaView Door-in-Door Refrigerator with Ice Maker, which responds to voice commands and features a tinted window that shows what’s behind the door when it senses you tapping on the glass.

More recently, LG announced a smart refrigerator that will order groceries, suggest recipe ideas, stream music, and check the weather -- no doubt in an attempt to keep pace with rival Samsung, acknowledged pioneer of the smart fridge market.

Connected Fridges: More Than a Cool Food Holder

For several years now, Samsung has offered several generations of its do-everything smart fridge called Family Hub, a Swiss-Army-knife sort of intelligent refrigerator. With its touch screen, Family Hub syncs household calendars, shares photos and notes, streams TV shows, and links and controls other smart home devices – including the popular Ring doorbell. Oh, and it does food-related things, too. For example, it monitors the freshness of your food. And, if you are at the grocery store and have forgotten your list, Family Hub’s three cameras beam a photo of what’s already in the fridge to your smartphone.

While GE Appliances doesn't yet sell smart refrigerators with cameras or touch screens, it does offer several models that connect to GE's mobile apps for alerts, programs, and controls. Other active makers of smart refrigerators are Electrolux AB, Hisense Co. Ltd, Midea Group, Siemens AG, Haier Group Corporation, Whirlpool Corporation, and Panasonic Corporation.

As faster wireless networks enable easy “remote” communication between our smart appliances and smartphones, more of us will be replacing “dumb” fridges with smart units that not only tell us whether our refrigerator is running but also:

  • If the door is open
  • If we’re almost out of ice
  • The ability to adjust the thermostat with a voice or tap command

Smart Refrigerators, Healthier Consumers

And speaking of temperature, one of the best things about smart fridges is that they keep our food fresher so that we avoid illnesses caused by expired items and improper storage. And that’s no joke.

Our Message to Manufacturers

Building smart home products that promote family health and wellbeing is a win for consumers, of course. But new ways of using tech for smart appliances also can give manufacturers a better way of doing business -- leveraging data to make better decisions, build better products, and provide faster, lower-cost customer service.

Manufacturers can find out more about how to transform regular appliances into smart appliances, by contacting Ayla for a free consultation and to learn more about designing smart refrigerators and freezers using Ayla IoT platform services.