It seems like everything’s trying to get ‘smarter’ these days, but do we really need our kitchen appliances to join in? With Wi-Fi connected fridges at CES this year, hasn’t this gone too far?
In front of me is a flyer for the white-goods manufacturer LG, picked up by one of my colleagues at last week’s CES 2011 technology show in Las Vegas. On the front cover is a picture of a fridge freezer.
At least I presume it’s a fridge freezer, as it’s the size of a stainless steel armoured tank (does such a thing exist? If not, surely it would be a breeze to clean the mud off after a hard day in a war zone) and has double doors with a couple of filing-cabinet-style drawers for good measure. Anyway, I digress.
What caught my eye is that the fridge has a speech bubble coming out of it with a picture of a box of eggs. And on one of the fridge doors there’s a touchscreen. The accompanying text reads ‘LG Home Appliance. Smarter. Knows what you need before you do.’
Now this is more like it! This is The Future™. Or it would be if I thought there was even the most remote chance that this would make it into the average Briton’s life within the next decade.
I don’t want a ‘clever’ fridge
Delving deeper into these claims that my domestic appliances will know better than I do whether my eggs are past their use-by date, I see that this is known as LG’s “Food Management Solution”. It transpires that this requires more effort on my part than the fridge’s.
Now, as well as going to the supermarket, buying the food, carting it home, unpacking it and cooking it, I must slot in the additional task of scanning its barcode on my fridge and inputting its use-by date. Then, when I forget that the eggs have expired, my fridge can remind me via a text message, email or by waggling its antenna at me and clucking like a chicken (okay, I made that last bit up).
Well let me tell you, fridge, my life is too short for this. I want to be chilled out as much as you, but this won’t happen if I’m getting text messages from you all day reminding me that I’ve run out of smoked salmon, or that botulism is lurking in my half-eaten bowl of baked beans.
Kitchen appliances shouldn’t be complicated
It gets worse. Apparently my appliances will soon be able to self-diagnose their faults and alert either me or the manufacturer’s customer service centre. And I’ll be able to set my fridge temperature via an app on my smartphone. Arrrgh.
Am I alone in being happy to give my fridge’s temperature an occasional tweak during its monthly clean, by turning a numbered dial next to the light? How often should I be adjusting its temperature – each night before bedtime?
So, please excuse the rant, but I feel quite strongly about this. Cars have already become too complicated, what with their sophisticated computerised “engine management systems” that befuddle the car’s owner and necessitate a pricey trip to the garage. Let’s not let our kitchen appliances join them.
Keep tech where it’s appropriate and genuinely useful, and stop trying to flog us additional features where we don’t need them. Although I’d quite like to be able to preheat the oven via my iPhone while I’m on my way home…