10 October 2021
Having worked in the sports and entertainment technology industry for over 30 years, it’s been interesting to see how guest experience and operations have evolved. But over the last two years, thanks to the pandemic, many sports teams and venues have accelerated their adoption of technology to make venues safe and eliminate the spread of COVID-19.
One of the applications of technology in venues to re-open them in the pandemic is contactless point of sale. What this means is integrating technologies like NFC (Near Field Communications) and biometrics into the purchase process at clubs and concession stands to eliminate exposure. One approach is partnering with companies like Amazon to incorporate their Amazon Go store concept into that guest experience. Many of the new venues like Allegiant stadium and Climate Pledge Arena are opening with technologies like this and many more existing venues are retrofitting.
Amazon created an advanced shopping technology to eliminate line waits by using ‘Just Walk Out Technology.’ Their checkout-free shopping experience employs technologies like computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. Just Walk Out Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Later, they send you a receipt and charge your Amazon account. Watch this video to learn more about Amazon Go’s Just Walk Out Shopping experience.
So what does this have to do with Smart Home? Amazon looks be working on its own smart refrigerator. I addressed smart refrigerators in a post earlier this year when I discussed a variety of smart kitchen appliances. The usual suspects like Samsung and LG have been in the smart refrigerator game for a while as you’d suspect. Samsung integrates the SmartThings ecosystem of smart home devices as well as their smart voice assistant Bixby is also built in, along with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri so you have voice control over entertainment, news briefings and memo taking, plus more of the usual voice assistant features. LG brings its ThinQ AI to the mix, allowing it to communicate with other LG ThinQ devices. ThinQ also integrates Amazon Alexa to read out recipes and let you add items to your shopping list as you run out of ingredients, as well as being an entertainment hub. There are a variety of apps and virtual Amazon Dash buttons let you reorder whatever you need with just one tap.
Amazon may seem like an odd player in the smart kitchen world, but it makes a lot of sense. Amazon upped its connected smart kitchen game a while back by introducing their AmazonBasics Microwave. Amazon’s Microwave simplifies cooking by letting you microwave using your voice and an Echo device so expect that same capability integrated into their refrigerator.
“Project Pulse,” as the project is titled internally, is being developed by the same Amazon “physical-stores unit” that worked on the company’s Amazon Go stores. The project is designed to help you in your smart kitchen by:
- Tracking your refrigerator inventory and purchase habits
- Predicting what you want and have it delivered
The refrigerator could also track expiration dates, suggest recipes based on the products inside and offer an easy way to order more food from an Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods grocery store. Amazon’s real value add would be its network of grocery stores and the work already done using computer vision to identify grocery items in Amazon Go convenience stores and Dash carts.
Amazon’s smart refrigerator has apparently been in the works for at least two years within their computer and artificial intelligence teams. There’s no telling if or when Amazon will introduce the product, but it will likely partner with other manufacturers.
With their other product categories, like the smart thermostat Amazon recently debuted, they are well positioned to undercut their competitors on price and easily integrate other smart home devices. For me, I think the biggest selling point is the Alexa ecosystem. As peoples refrigerators are generally the information center of the kitchen, Amazon brings a lot of options to the table that competitors don’t have natively.
I’d imagine we’ve all experienced supply chain issues at our local grocery stores for items we’ve regularly shopped for. I don’t have any crystal ball but I don’t think that situation is going to change anytime soon. So, rather than going out shopping and not being able to get what you’re looking for, wouldn’t it be better to automate the shopping experience? When specific items you need aren’t available, wouldn’t it be nice to still get them from other sources or be given alternative options? Think of the time and expense you’ll save.
As Debbie already has a pretty nice refrigerator she plans to move into our new house, a smart fridge isn’t in our immediate plans. But we’ll have to replace it at some point and by then Amazon should have their product(s) available — or there will be other smart options. And I can always put my own smart fridge in the garage that integrates with with a robot to deliver cold beverages to me while I’m working in the yard.
Where do you stand on smart kitchen or more specifically smart refrigerators? If you already have one, where are you seeing the pros and cons? If not, would you consider buying one? What benefits do you see making the most positive impact on your lifestyle? What are your thoughts on tracking your refrigerator inventory and purchase habits and predicting what you want? A little creepy or a huge time saver? Let us know in the comments, DMs and email. Until next week …
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