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back to article WTF are... connected appliances?

The ‘internet fridge’ is a much-loved staple of futurologists. In some rosy and not-too-far-off future, many kitchens will have one, magically replenishing itself so that you never need run out of black pudding or milk. When you’re low on such essentials, the fridge will automatically order new ones from the supermarket, and …

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Give me

IP enabled thermostats (read temperature and regulate valve), thermometers (maybe in light switches, which could also be IP controllable) and boiler controls.

Of course the manual override still has to work, and you need power to the radiators, but that can't be insurmountable.

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WTF?

It won't stop waste

Quite the opposite, the "developed" world already throws millions of tons of good food away each day because of insanely over cautious "use by" dates. A connected fridge is only likely to extricable the issue by erring further on the side of that caution to avoid potential litigation.

Truly an answer to a question that doesn't need to be asked.

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There are 2 problems here

One is the problem of protocols. What we need are open and simple/obvious protocols for those devices to talk to each other.

The other one is computer literacy. What's the use of your coffee maker being able to tell you when the coffee is ready when you cannot process that information automatically?

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Sell by, use by, best before . . .

If there is a tiny weeny chance of the product looking slightly not at its best, an ingredient that may have changed a bit, the smallest possibility of a change in taste -- bin the fucker!

Then go and buy a replacement that will sit in the fridge until it's chucked out.

How come I don't think that this idea of 'intelligent (pah!) fridges' has the interests of the consumer at heart? I doubt if it even has anything to do with litigation.

And at the same time people are being prosecuted for rescuing perfectly good food from bins - a £4 sandwich that has yesterday's date on it or even today's date but it's late afternoon and the lunch rush is over -- bin it.

Michael Marshall Smith had the right idea with Stark who sympathises with the household appliances so they don't rat on him when he breaks in to places.

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thumbs up for the

Only Forward reference. Cracking book.

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And yet

I believe there is room for internet connected appliances - having an SNMP interface on the washing machine counting number of lifetime washes, number of failures, total running time, etc, would be useful for the information obsessed - and even for technicians who are bound to visit from time to time.

Imagine if all washing machines, fridges, etc had a standard Ethernet port and read-only SNMP on 192.168.0.1? This could have become a standard 10 years ago and technicians world wide would still be able to access the information. I would bet that such an interface would still be standard 10 years from now. 10BaseT will always be supported no matter how high Ethernet speeds get.

Diagnosing problems with the fridge could be made easier.. if you plot a graph of your fridge temperature over time you might discover people keep leaving the door ajar. Or if the compressor is running too frequently. Or if the ambient outside temperature is too hot to allow the heat to disperse.

Personally I think every office needs a binary detection device on every toilet door. Then a plot of the busiest times in the bathroom. Would be useful statistical information.

Of course, the average user won't care. It's easy for us to keep forgetting that the average person wouldn't know what the 3 legs on a transistor are for. They are carrying mobile phones only because the market has pushed them into it - and they are desperate to keep in touch with their friends.

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One thing

that they STILL need to get to connect to the net properly is Virgin media boxes.

Really, the whole idea of having all your lights connected to the net is a nice concept but just a bit silly I think. Yes, you can switch them on and off from a browser whilst away, but it still seems like a bit of a waste.

Connected heating should be researched though. I'd love to be able to log when leaving work on an unexpectedly cold day and make sure the house is nice and warm for my return.

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Anonymous Coward

"and even for technicians who are bound to visit from time to time."

I like this idea. If they're keeping track of diagnostics remotely then they could dispatch the repair man with the right (or at least quite likely) spare parts. For me, privacy's not such a big issue - not sure I care if Miele know how often I wash my pants even if that enables them to correlate all sorts of information re: skidmarks etc.

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room for internet connected appliances

If I am going to pay money for extra hardware in an appliance I would rather it be spent on making the appliance more reliable and durable than on a facility to phone home when it is broken.

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make that 20 years

Isn't it nearly 20 years since Philips started using reject (below spec processor speed!) Sun SPARC system boards as washing machine controllers? They would have had a Lance Ethernet controller on board, but not a lot of non volatile storage:-(

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Anonymous Coward

@JP19

"I would rather it be spent on making the appliance more reliable and durable"

You've heard of built in obsolescence right?

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Paris Hilton

Yet again a solution desperately looking for a problem

Makes sense for things where a timer may need to be overridden or set (Sky Plus box, or maybe your oven set on timer to cook your dinner but you're stuck in traffic).

But other than that, it's yet again having something to bolt onto a gadget for the sake of it, rather than for a need of it.

Paris, cos she can easily be connected with over the net.

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Black Helicopters

Heating Control

Remote access to my heating control is a must, particularly since heating is expensive. I already have remote access to my myth-tv setup, and it gets used reasonably frequently.

Proximity sensitive lighting would be nice too - never forget to turn off a light in the morning, have the lights on already when I open the door.

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Tech companies

Which do not know how to spend their research money should concentrate on how to get to and live on the Moon and Mars and leave to decide what I want for dinner to *me*.

Anyway, who wants to connect a toaster to a network? It may have a plan.

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"display [...] notes from family members"

So much cheaper with a piece of paper and a fridge magnet.

And where else would you put the calendar?

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nah

No thanks, all that requires yet more electric to keep running. Altho I must admit I like the idea of the fridge being able to tell me what meals I have ingridients for... but its only a short step from that to 'add half a litre of anti-freaze and a dash of roundup' and world wide electrical appliance dommination.

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Devil

It would have been lovely

However the "smart" shopping functions will come last if ever. It will take a 800 lbl Gorilla like Google to go into this market to put some order in it.

In the meantime all appliances will become smart, but it will be a different smartness. It will be a "computer says NO" nanny state smartness where the appliance refuses to work when the energy and green lobbies has decided that it is unprofitable or politically incorrect for it to do so. Which is all fine, but it is also openly advocated by both as a viable replacement for maintaining and developing infrastructure.

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Needs more thought

A fridge is probably the most pointless thing to add connectivity too people just aren't thinking hard enough

Why not have lightbulbs that have customised usage patterns, so they will fade during the day and brighten at night, and capable of detecting smart phones in a room to turn the light off when a smart phone leaves customisable from a web UI

Why not have WIFI/IR/bluetooth/NFC whatever connected hinges on doors that are capable of opening or closing doors, have the door tied to your smart phone, you approach the door smartphone in pocket it opens

Why not have connected, windows/blinds allowing you to adjust the light in a room according to the time of day

Why not have web connected showers/baths allowing you to fill the tub ready for when you're home

Why not have some bloody vision, we're living in the most exciting time in the history of man

It annoys me these kind of comments that oh it's all been done, we've got nothing to look forward to, We can't have the future we wanted, It's stupid backward thinking. I swear if I had access to a small business in this sector your house in 10 years would be like the fucking Enterprise-E

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Boffin

I thought everybody had this in their house already?

It's called a Building Management System (BMS)

I have a BMS in my home that controls all those things - PIR occupancy sensors, light sensors, the TV remote can adjust the lights and heating, and there's touchscreens around if the remote is lost down the sofa.

Plus some spare capacity for some fun christmas lights when I get around to it.

(I don't have atuomatic doors because I don't want them)

Of course, my job is to design and commission these systems - we drive lights, blinds, SmartGlass-style windows, video projectors, projection screens and interface to HVAC among other things.

The reason you don't have this yourself is probably down to the cost of the expertise to design and commission these systems. They are extremely powerful and flexible, so it takes a while to learn both waht they'll do and how to make them do it.

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OMG!

"Why not have lightbulbs that have customised usage patterns, so they will fade during the day and brighten at night, and capable of detecting smart phones in a room to turn the light off when a smart phone leaves customisable from a web UI"

Grown too lazy to flick a switch?

"Why not have WIFI/IR/bluetooth/NFC whatever connected hinges on doors that are capable of opening or closing doors, have the door tied to your smart phone, you approach the door smartphone in pocket it opens"

a) facepalm

b) so any neverdowell can knock you out and use your smartphone to lead him to your house and open the doors for him?

"Why not have connected, windows/blinds allowing you to adjust the light in a room according to the time of day"

Hint: you can do it now - just pull the bloody cord!

"Why not have web connected showers/baths allowing you to fill the tub ready for when you're home"

Presumably you are normally in such a rush that you jump into the bath fully dressed? Because if not, there is usually plenty of time for the bath to fill while you undress, pick your book, make a drink, etc.

"Why not have some bloody vision, we're living in the most exciting time in the history of man"

You call *that* vision?

"your house in 10 years would be like the fucking Enterprise-E"

I bet it won't. It will just be filled with pointless electronics which will constantly fail, no one will remember one 10th of its functions or how to program them and it won't do neither impulse nor warp speed.

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@Richard

I have had a BMS for 35 years. I married her. Far smarter and more reactive than any technology, and a lot more fun socially.

I also got two burglar alarms from the rescue kennels, and a pest control apparatus from Cat's protection.

Biology > Electronics.

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Stop

Fridge logic

"Why not have lightbulbs that have customised usage patterns, so they will fade during the day and brighten at night,"

Strangely enough, I do. It's called a lightswitch.

"and capable of detecting smart phones in a room to turn the light off when a smart phone leaves customisable from a web UI"

Excepting the fact that there may be people who don't have a smartphone. In addition, to extend battery life, I turn mine into flight mode when I'm at home and run the thing on WiFi. I use it more for connectivity than calling anyway.

"Why not have WIFI/IR/bluetooth/NFC whatever connected hinges on doors that are capable of opening or closing doors,"

Epic fail territory. Once a computer has been fooled, it is completely obedient. It won't get suspicious any more than its programming has told it. Thank you, but I would only use automatic things as a convenience (such as an automatic gate would be nice on a horrible sleety day), but never as a factor in house security.

"have the door tied to your smart phone, you approach the door smartphone in pocket it opens"

And how many people do you think have programmed in their home address into the smartphone, which the map app will show as a cute little yellow star? Brilliant, nicked this jerks phone, here's the GPS route to his house, and this baby will let us walk right in.

"Why not have connected, windows/blinds allowing you to adjust the light in a room according to the time of day"

I work at night, so this is an issue for me. Beside my pillow I have a towel. A boring regular bath towel, medium sized. If I think it is too light for me, I fold the towel in half and drop it over my head. Instant darkness. I can even do this when half asleep.

"Why not have web connected showers/baths allowing you to fill the tub ready for when you're home"

? I can fill mine in the time it takes to faff around getting everything ready for the bath, and for afterwards.

"Why not have some bloody vision, we're living in the most exciting time in the history of man"

Actually, I think that was the '80s. With the increase of weird religious ideas and the decline in education, it seems like we're in danger of slipping towards the Dark Ages.

"We can't have the future we wanted,"

I have a book from when I was little. We're supposed to be wearing tin foil suits and living in giant wheels orbiting the Earth...

"I swear if I had access to a small business in this sector your house in 10 years would be like the fucking Enterprise-E"

I very much doubt it. I live in an old stone-built farmhouse with a provenance of 4-5 hundred years. There isn't even networking cables laid into the walls. And, you know, I'm proud of that. So many new houses with all the mod-cons might look cosy but they're soulless pieces of shit when you get down to it. The odd thing is, I see a house where my fridge doesn't talk to anything and where no rooms have LAN jacks in the walls as being a good thing.

For what it is worth, one of the nicest things to watch on a nasty winter night is the fire. A proper real burning log in a little metal case. It is NOT whatever rubbish happens to be on telly at that time.

Maybe us nerdy bunch could do well to step back once in a while and ask "what is really important in my life?". I think, on reflection, a fridge that talks to anything would end up so far down the list as to be trivially irrelevant.

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@heyrick

"... If I think it is too light for me, I fold the towel in half and drop it over my head."

Have you patented that? You should!

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Anonymous Coward

Fridge development two dot one: fridge logic.

If these manufacturers want to be working "toward the future" instead of falling on their faces with another failed gimmick, then stop focusing on the high-end. What they'd do instead is take a good quality mid-end box and tool it with some sensors ranging from simple temperature meters to perhaps rfid+barcode readers and whatever else might turn out to be useful. Then make that available through open standards.

Someone will figure out a use for it, if there is one, and will hook up their home pc and have that communicate with their mobile and whatnot. Once you get a bit of a feel of what's out there you can copy the best ideas and put those in the high-end, and make a bit of a buck off the non-tech early adopters.

Personally and after careful deliberation I'm perfectly happy with a fridge that *isn't* connected to anything. I certainly don't need lightbulbs that announce to the world --including people that have no right but lots of interest to know-- whether they're on or not; habit is enough and if it wasn't then the old sysadmin standby of graphing trends at the meter will show quick enough when something is amiss.

But that doesn't mean there aren't uses. In that respect we'll probably see more hyperautomation uses coming out of the drive to care for the elderly than from trying to have the next hype thing on consumer electronics shows. The latter just doesn't drive much real need for creativity, but does seem an endless source of ill-thought-out security problems waiting to happen.

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re:just to please a household appliance?

The EF-209 Enforcement Fridge?

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Pirate

Share and enjoy!

This stuff always reminds me of Sirius Cybernetics' GPP feature (Genuine People Personality, thank you, Douglas Adams). As I told one "ambient intelligence" guru at a conference, I don't want chatty (and smug) doors, fridges that order beer for me (and thus have access to my bank account!!) and least of all a Nutrimatic Machine (which, despite its intelligence, only makes cups filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea). A system that automatically puts on "my favourite" music when I get home is likely to get a reprogramming it will never forget (with a very large ax) if it gets it wrong (yet again).

</rant>

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Terminator

Town Called Eureka

This will only end badly, I can remember an episode of the TV series "a Town Called Eureka" where the main characters house computer (with a suitably feminine voice and persona) locks him out of his house because he didn't come home in time when "she" had cooked him dinner and informed him earlier when it was going to be ready.

Last thing we need is our appliances throwing hissy fits.

Come to think of it "Talkie the Toaster" from Red Dwarf should also serve as a warning

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Black Helicopters

I can guess who will like this

Internet fridges could go down well with the spook community: "This family has stopped buying pork products, let's suspect them of conversion to radical Islam."

Or maybe not, you can get that info from the supermarket systems, especially with online shopping.

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Dilemma

"This family has stopped buying pork products, let's suspect them of conversion to radical Islam."

"On the other hand, they may have just been recruited by the Mossad..."

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More likely, it will be the other types who like it

You know, the types who see "This family buys pork products so let's suspect them of being racist and anti-muslim.'

Or maybe not, because any member of the politically-correct 'protected' groups can, without so much glancing at a database, just point a finger these days and scream 'racist' to destroy someone's life.

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Even worse.....

... they might have turned .... vegetarian!

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Coat

Clearly, in order to complement the smart fridge...

... we require the Smart Sausage!

Not only will the upcoming smart sausage know it's the only one left in the pack and it'll be able to monitor it's own internal state so you'll never throw away another good sausage.

Not only that but as part of the smarter home network, your Smart Sausage will be able to monitor your bowels on the way down and tweet any medical recommendations!

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Coffee/keyboard

Ahahaha

"your Smart Sausage will be able to monitor your bowels on the way down and tweet any medical recommendations!"

I just had this really weird mental image of a crap-covered sausage version of Clippy saying "Hey, it looks like you need a colonoscopy. Do you want me to schedule your appointment?"

I'm not sure I'm ready for such a brave new world

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Can't you just hear

the last sausage whimpering in its package because it is all alone

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Soon, in a fridge near you -

Third day, scared and all alone in the cold and the dark. Why do they hate me? #lastsausageinthepack

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Boffin

Fridges and Firewalls

Just wondering what happens if the latest hacker group du jour manages to break into the domestic appliance API and sets the washing machine to do a 3 hour boil wash regardless of what's in it, or if they tell the fridge to order a couple of tons of lard or something similar. Actually something that can order automatically does raise issues about payment security. Being bankrupted because the fridge decided you needed a weekly supply of caviare and champagne must be one of the most stupid ways of losing money.

Is it worth mention the Microsoft Toaster API? http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff558716%28v=vs.85%29.aspx

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Coffee/keyboard

Reinventing the 80s

Reminds me of the house automation cartridge I always wanted for my Vic-20 - http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/issue55/controlling.php

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I want a connected fridge

Not so it can tell me when to throw away pre-packaged food. I want it to ask my smart meter what the current electricity price is, and then use that information to decide whether to run the compressor now, or to wait five minutes and not try to compete for power with people boiling the kettle in an ad break.

Or if there's lots of wind power available for a few minutes, the electricity price should drop and the fridge should take advantage of that and bring the temperature down close to 0°C.

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Hmmm

"Or if there's lots of wind power available for a few minutes, the electricity price should drop and the fridge should take advantage of that and bring the temperature down close to 0°C."

But all other fridges will equally decide at the same time that it's time to buy cheap power... and so will kettles and toasters...

Don't complain then about high-frequency trading causing high volatility and about how you always seem to be buying power at price spikes...

Also, who will pay for real-time price feed from power exchange, the fridge or the toaster?

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For the fridge to order food

...it needs to connect to a food retailer. So it either buys all your food from a single supplier, without caring about the prices, or it's capable of connecting to multiple retailers, querying and comparing the prices.

That last is never going to happen as long as the directors of Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda etc have holes in their arses.

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That bit isn't the problem

We have mysupermarket.co.uk, which lets you compare prices at Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda and Ocada, and send the shopping trolley to the cheapest supermarket.

The problem is that you just can't predict what I am going to buy from looking at the movement of stuff in my fridge. How does it know that I'm running down stocks because I'm going on holiday next week. How does it know I have a party next week and need to order up lots of stuff, and that I don't need to re-order that stuff again for a while. How does it know that when a particular thing runs out, I want to replace it with something different, because I buy different things depending on my mood and get bored of eating the same thing every day.

I would have to stand in the kitchen and tap all this information into my fridge so it could make the appropriate purchasing decisions, and it would be much easier just to do it myself.

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Tail wagging the dog.

You put stuff in the fridge so you don't have to pop out to the shops every five minutes and now its telling you to pop out to the shops every five minutes???

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Anonymous Coward

Just put an OS on all of them...

.. that I can hack into. Then every appliance in my home would tell me where they where when they powered on. That way the next time thieving bastards broke in and stole everything I would at least be able to track down where my appliances where.

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Happy

My vote for Quote Of The Day.

"And without a common online shopping API, what happens if the new fridge isn’t compatible with your supermarket?"

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Boffin

what the world has been crying out for

the internet trouser press

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Just set the ****ing clock

More than 20years ago I worked at an HP spin off that was going to have connected appliances - before anyone outside a CS PhD had heard of the internet.

After much market research and out of the box information paradigm shifting blue skies research we came up with the idea that the clocks on all your appliances could be automatically adjusted for summer time.

It would still be a nice feature to have .....

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Anonymous Coward

They already exist

Terso Solutions, Inc. has a line of RFID enabled refrigerators and freezers being used in biotechnology and healthcare. There's already hundred of these deployed. More at: http://youtu.be/eumbzuOCcoQ

As the components come down in price, and manufacturers standardize, you'll see this in the hands of consumers.

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Happy

Hmmm

Personally speaking i think the biggest reason not many people at all have tech in the kitchen is because they just don't want it.

And why have an intelligent washing machine? Whats wrong with using your own eyes to differentiate between garments?

i think the most useful think in a kitchen would be an e-reader on the freezer door to leave notes on.

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Mushroom

I'll have the Monet and eggs, please

Re: the statement, "It’s simple to count the number of packets of sausages on a palette..."

Yes, but is a kielbasa Kandinsky Art?

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