Smart Fridges As The Voice IoT Proving Ground

  • Grace Noto
  • January 5, 2017
  • 1

pexels-photo-89235This year’s CES conference saw new developments in voice payments, and they’re starting with the kitchen.

Mastercard, Samsung, Amazon, and LG have developed new additions to their smart fridges (Mastercard and Samsung are partnered on one, Amazon and LG on the other) most notably the ability for users to order—and pay—for their groceries through voice.

“In order for IoT to continue to succeed, there has to be the least amount of friction for consumers and the most amount of convenience,” says Michael Minelli, vice president for the commerce platform group at Mastercard. “We plugged into Samsung’s voice technology; this is voice functionality that takes you through the entire experience.”

The Mastercard-Samsung smart fridge (part of the new Samsung Family Hub of devices for the home) works through Samsung’s voice technology combined with a newly updated voice-activated Groceries by Mastercard app; while LG and Amazon’s version naturally relies on the latter’s Alexa assistant; the same goal is achieved through both: instantaneous payment of groceries one has ordered just by speaking to the refrigerator.

Now, granted, living in a house of intelligent devices that meet your needs with but a word is kind of the dream, but why are we beginning this life with the fridge? What makes the refrigerator such an ideal proving ground for voice commerce?

Well, when it comes to shopping, paying for groceries via voice accomplishes a trick the most successful e-commerce sites have mastered (along with a certain ride-sharing giant)–making  the actual payment part of the transaction invisible.

Of course, smart fridges don’t just simply order groceries—the new version of LG’s fridge is essentially an Amazon Echo that stores food, with all of the additional talents of Alexa. Users of Samsung’s smart fridge will keep all of the features from the previous version, though it does not come with a voice assistant like Alexa.

“There are thousands of people here [at CES] taking about IoT; and all of these applications have to be integrated so we can create an Uber-like experience with payments,” says Minelli. “Whether or not we call it a digital assistant, it’s a way to eliminate friction–voice is a way to do that.”

This turns the fridge not only into an easier vehicle to manage all of the elements of grocery shopping but into the first installment of a self-autonomous kitchen—users of the Samsung fridge can now import a grocery list into the Samsung hub, for instance, which is instantly processed.

Users also no longer need to pull open the fridge to see if they’re out of milk (both smart fridges come with cameras equipped inside that can send photos of the contents to the owner).

Users of the Groceries by Mastercard app with the Samsung fridge can currently order groceries-by-voice from leading online grocers Fresh Direct, Peapod, and ShopRite; while users of the Amazon, LG fridge can order their food from the Amazon Prime Pantry.

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