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Big Brother is watching... your diet!
Have you ever gotten to the grocery store and forgotten if you still had orange juice? While visiting the Siemens booth at IFA, one of the representatives there brought our attention to what he half-jokingly called the CiF Project, or Camera-in-Fridge. Intrigued, we spent some time with Dr. Claudia Häpp—the head of Siemens' Connectivity project—who guided us through this unusual fridge prototype and its built-in camera.
Watching your diet, literally.
If you register your product and download Siemens' Connectivity App to your iPad or iPhone, the fridge will take a new picture every time the door is opened or closed and send it to your device. If, while sitting at work, you figure out what you want to cook but aren't sure of what's in your fridge, you can pull up the photo and check out what's inside. The app will also allow you find recipes based on what you know you want to eat, crossing items that you already own off a resulting shopping list.
Unfortunately, the technology behind this system doesn't yet incorporate picture recognition, so you'll have to input what you've bought manually—at least for now. Dr. Häpp made it clear that picture recognition isn't currently being developed in-house by Siemens, but the company would be more than willing to integrate an effective version.
Other usable features on the fridge, such as a Fast Freeze equivalent, can also be controlled using the Connectivity App, though Dr. Häpp made the point that wireless control over the functions of a fridge isn't that practical. People don't change the temperature of their fridges very often, and as such, Siemens wants to focus primarily on usable features that can actually be of some practical use to the consumer.
Working with a preexisting model.
Aside from the built-in camera, the fridge that was on display wasn't anything new. For all intents and purposes, it was a standard, mid-range European bottom freezer with a silvery finish: glass shelves, multiple drawers, and gray trim were all arrayed in a familiar layout. The freezer door had no shelves—standard for European and compact American models—and the drawers functioned with moderate ease. LED lighting made sure everything was illuminated thoroughly, doors opened easily, and every compartment was easy to reach. What's more, the cameras took up minimal space, having virtually no impact on storage capacity.
In terms of freezer space, there's nothing unusual going on at all: several drawers, no door storage, and no cameras. The logic behind not including any in the chilly lower compartment was the belief that consumers don't open and close the freezer door on as regular a basis. Since freezers in models like this one are so small, there's less of a chance that you'll forget what's in there... and if you do, by the time you decide what you want to eat, it'll probably be too late to fully defrost a slab of meat anyway. There's also the issue of ice build-up on the camera: many European refrigerators, like some American compact models and chest freezers, lack defrost cycles.
A technological darling.
Why give so much attention to a European company coming out with a smart fridge for the European market? Well, Siemens is a company affiliated with Bosch, which does sell appliances in America, and Dr. Häpp informed us that these products should be released in the States sometime in 2016.
The real question on everyone's mind is: How much will it cost to have cameras in my fridge? Siemens is planning to offer this option on multiple models, which would certainly help with cost. (Most smart appliances on the market are only upgrades of high-end platforms.) And while the built-in camera addition may not break the bank, it would probably cost a few hundred dollars more than standard versions. Speculation aside, there are a lot of details to iron out with years for the American market to wait. We'll only know then whether Americans are willing to fork over the extra cash for this kind of connected luxury.