LG Electronics announced at CES 2017 a smart refrigerator embedded with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant technology that, among other features, allows users to buy groceries through Amazon Prime by speaking their orders to the appliance — one of many new Alexa integrations and applications unveiled at CES this week.
The Smart InstaView refrigerator, powered by LG’s own webOS software platform and equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, also can use Alexa to search recipes, play music, add items to a shopping list and more.
The refrigerator also boasts a 29-inch LCD touch screen on its door that features a Smart Tag menu that allows users to add stickers and tags on the screen to indicate which foods are stored inside, as well as the ability to input the expiration date of each item. Family members use the screen to write memos to one another, and a 2.0 megapixel panoramic super-wide-lens camera can be used to view items inside the refrigerator remotely through a smartphone.
Amazon, working with its partners in the appliance industry, continues to give consumers more reasons not to step outside their homes and head to brick-and-mortar retailers. Even before LG’s Alexa-enabled fridge, Amazon already was partnering with appliance makers on machines with limited automated ordering capabilities (or at least button-powered ordering) through its Amazon Dash program.
In any case, this probably isn’t the last we will hear — literally — of Alexa’s voice emanating from a smart kitchen appliance. Amazon recently has been putting more energy and resources behind its efforts to take Alexa in new directions, and an Amazon official speaking at CES said Alexa is now integrated with more than 7,000 other products and services, including appliances, but also electrical outlets, stereo speakers and vehicle infotainment systems, among others.
It should be noted that Amazon has not completely cornered the market on all these smart devices, or even on smart appliance purchasing capabilities. The smart home market is a broad one, and some appliance makers with Internet of Things expertise are able to deliver similar products without partnering with Amazon (Samsung’s own smart fridge announcement at CES being one example.) The world is become increasingly Alexa-enabled, but other brands are pursuing the smart future with their own roadmaps.
Some observers might wonder if Alexa is actually moving in on the Dash button’s territory by moving into smart appliances. However, just as there is a lot of room for different brands in the smart home landscape, there also is a lot of room for different kinds of smart appliances and solutions. Some of them will be fully automated and rely on IoT connectivity and capabilities, while others could be more suitable for Alexa’s human-driven assistance (for example, an IoT-enabled fridge might detect that a pound of bacon is down to its last few strips, and order another pound of bacon. An Alexa-enabled fridge, on the other hand, could be told to order three pounds of bacon instead of usual one because you just don’t care what Alexa or anyone else thinks of you anymore.)