refrigerator

Are you ready for a smart fridge?

May 2, 2011 at 7:46 AM ET

Jung Yeon-je / AFP - Getty Images /
A South Korean model poses with an LG Electronics refrigerator connected to a home Wi-Fi network that can be controlled by a smartphone, during a launching event in Seoul on April 19, 2011. New smart fridges like this one and another from Samsung are due out soon.

My refrigerator doesn’t just keep our fruits and veggies cool, it’s a board for posting and reading vital information. There are birthday party invitations, pictures of friends and family and notes reminding me to do things like pick up milk at the store hanging from to every square inch.  It’s functional, but not pretty.

So what if a lot of that information could be served up on an integrated display? That’s the idea behind a new class of Wi-Fi-enabled refrigerators arriving this year.

The first is the Samsung RF4289 LCD refrigerator ($3,499), due in stores this month. The French door-style fridge has an 8-inch touchscreen that provides access to selected apps. Among them, there’s a recipe finder that pulls from the collection on Epicurious.com. In the app you can view the whole recipe and get a shopping list (though you can’t send it to your phone or print it yet). WeatherBug, not surprisingly, provides weather reports. AP delivers headline news. Pandora provides music. Plus you can view photos through the Picasa app.

My favorite app is Google Calendar. Create a family calendar and you can sync it with your smartphone, computers or any other device that can pull in Google Calendar information. I always input appointments directly into my phone and with this, I could send them to my husband and the fridge, so everyone has the same information.

LG also has a smart fridge in the works for later this year. In addition to similar selection of apps, it will be able to tell you what's in the fridge and when the food's "sell-by" date is due to expire.

The smart fridge concept has been around for years and never took off. But it just might work this time. People are already used to apps and touchscreens, and well over half of U.S. households are already equipped with wireless networks. So the real question is whether the premium you pay is worth the smarts you get. 

Having a central, digital family calendar doesn’t justify the $500 premium you pay to get the tablet built into Samsung's fridge. But it would certainly be a welcome addition in our home. So I'm hoping someone will get the smarts to price ratio right. Maybe it will be LG.

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