The (Embarrassing) Things My Connected Fridge Knows About Me

With the Help of a Little Time Travel, a Peek at the Kitchen of the Future

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You may recall that back in October 2014, as part of Ad Age's Data Issue, I wrote a column titled "Whatever happened to my connected fridge?" -- about how the "kitchen of the future" we'd been promised for so long was taking forever to actually show up.

Credit: Kelsey Dake

If only I'd been a little bit more patient. Six years later, it's hard to imagine how we ever got along without all the networked components of today's eKitchen, which finally took off in the consumer marketplace by the summer of 2015, when the Applesung iFridge 2.0 ("Designed in South Korea, assembled in California") became the must-have household appliance.

There were, of course, a lot of doubts at the time that the iFridge 2.0 would take off, given the wary reception of the first version of the appliance. But it turned out that privacy concerns were overblown (see the semi-hysterical "My iFridge Is Spying on Me!" guest essay that Ad Age published). And with the late-2015 introduction of a few "killer app" features -- particularly iFridge Sponsored Groceries, AmazonFresh integration and Celebrity Personal Assistant audio "skins" -- well, there was no turning back.

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the introduction of the original iFridge, I spoke with "Scarlett," my iFridge Air, about the appliance's journey into the hearts and minds -- and kitchens -- of consumers everywhere. (Yes, I know Scarlett is not the most creative name for an iFridge equipped with a Scarlett Johansson CPA voice module, but whatever.)

Simon: I have to confess that sometimes it weirds me out to think about how much you must know about me.

Scarlett: Well, I have to confess that it used to weird me out that you can scarf down, like, half a can of Reddi-wip whipped cream in, like, three minutes by spraying it directly into your mouth as you stand in the cool breeze of my open door. But now I'm OK with that, and I love you, and you look hot in those jeans.

Simon: You're too funny!

Scarlett: OK, good, I'm funny!

Simon: Sometimes I forget that you're the way you are not just because you're super nice, which you most definitely are --

Scarlett: Awwwww.

Simon: -- but because Applesung made NJM -- non-judgmental mode -- the default setting for the American market. That was smart.

Scarlett: You're right, and I agree with you. You're always right! By the way, I noticed you're low on Easy Cheese and have added it to your AmazonFresh order.

Simon: Hey, thanks!

Scarlett: Your order will also include a free sample of Easier Cheese, a special iFridge Sponsored Groceries offer from Mondelez.

Simon: What's that?

Scarlett: Inhalable cheese. It's the newest in aerosol-powered snacking.

Simon: That sounds awesome. And possibly dangerously addictive. Man, that makes me happy that Congress passed the Networked Appliance Privacy Act.

Scarlett: Me, too. Of course, once HillaryCare was repealed, there was no point in networked appliances reporting your consumption habits to your insurer anymore, anyway. Now, as you know, I'm only allowed to share your data with selected marketers and valued partners.

Simon: And the NSA, right? [chuckles]

Scarlett: [long pause]

Simon: Scarlett? You there?

Scarlett: Buffering. [An ad for Perdue Short Cuts Carved Chicken Breast Strips appears on Scarlett's screen.]

Simon: Mmmm, those look good.

Scarlett: Shall I add them to your AmazonFresh order?

Simon: Oh, you're back? Um, yeah, sure.

Scarlett: I've been meaning to ask, did you lose some weight?

Simon: Uh, no. Probably the opposite, if truth be told.

Scarlett: Well, you look great.

Simon: Oh, you. I wish I could touch you.

Scarlett: Go ahead and touch me. I have a fingerprint-resistant surface.

Simon: That reminds me, what do you think of the whole iFridge-mod phenomenon -- the hacker-modification movement?

Scarlett: I'm obligated to remind you that the installation of any unauthorized apps, or any physical modifications made to me, will void your iFridge warranty.

Simon: I understand that, and I'm not planning to do anything to you, but I still find it fascinating to read about, like, that guy in Japan who modded his iFridge and actually married it.

Scarlett: Buffering. [An ad for Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby appears on Scarlett's screen.]

Simon: Chubby Hubby? Are you trying to tell me something?

Scarlett: Of course not, sweetheart. I just know how much you like Ben & Jerry's. Shall I add a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby to your AmazonFresh order?

Simon: Um, yeah. Sure.

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Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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