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As its phones falter LG defrosts the IoT fridge

LG instaview fridge

Having been distracted by the mobile phone market for the past 16 years LG seems to have decided the smart fridge isn’t such a silly idea after all.

LG pioneered the category that has come to exemplify the speculative futility of the consumer IoT market way back in 2000, timed perfectly to coincide with the moment the world realised that everything connected is not necessarily gold. That pioneering device was called the Internet Digital DIOS and featured a TFT LCD screen and a LAN port.

At CES 2017 LG proudly unveiled the Smart InstaView, a fridge with a 29-inch touchscreen on the door that can turn transparent to solve that most first world of problems – finding out what you’ve got in the fridge without all the hassle of opening the door. The more useful technology, however, may be integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition system, which acts as a gateway to Amazon’s nascent grocery delivery to render supermarkets redundant.

“By working with Amazon, we are able to broaden our smart refrigerator’s capabilities and further provide our customers with a pleasurable cooking and dining experience,” said Song Dae-Hyun, president of LG Electronics and Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Our Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator will allow users to enjoy their kitchen experience like never before.”

“Now consumers have even more convenience in their homes, all just by using their voice and Alexa,” said Mike George, VP of Amazon Alexa. “In working with an innovative home appliance company like LG, we can truly showcase how much better life can be for consumers everywhere starting with updating one of the most important appliances in the home.”

This launch coincides with further evidence of the decline of LG’s smartphone fortunes. 2016 saw consistent year-on-year declines in smartphone shipments for LG and its Q3 earnings flagged up almost $400 million in operating losses for the mobile business unit. Preliminary Q4 2016 numbers predict a first overall quarterly operating loss for six years and, while the preliminary numbers aren’t broken out by business unit, it seems safe to assume smartphones were once more heavily in the red. LG was muted to the point of reticence on the matter of smartphones at CES, despite coinciding the launch of a bunch of mid-range ones with the show.

Other big consumer electronics companies, such as Sony, have already concluded they’re better off out of the smartphone game and it wouldn’t be surprising to see LG follow suit. This move back to the IoT fridge is especially symbolic considering that, in the US at least, the device will run on the WebOS platform, which marked smartphone failure for moth Palm and HP, and was acquired by LG for use on smart TVs.

The start of the voice UI era may also mark the moment consumer IoT moves from utopian pointlessness to a genuine point of differentiation for consumer electronics devices. It’s still not immediately obvious why we need our fridge to be anything other than a cold cupboard, but maybe a truly simple and intuitive voice UI will change that.

 

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