The smart fridge has long been the butt of many IoT-related memes, but Samsung is betting that maybe all smart fridges needed to nab a spot in your kitchen was a more colorful look. The company will show off its newest iteration of the smart fridge at CES 2022 next week, and while it still can’t reliably determine what food you need and automatically order it so you don’t even have to think about shopping, it can be a pretty shade of blue.
The Samsung Family Hub fridge is now a part of Samsung’s Bespoke appliance line. First introduced in 2021, the Bespoke range is a selection of modular, configurable appliances with a clean, modern look and customizable colors and finishes.
The idea behind Bespoke is to allow households to create personalized decor for their kitchens and laundry rooms. The line includes refrigerators, ranges, dishwashers, microwaves, vacuums, washers and dryers in a choice of customized colors that can be mixed and matched. The fridge will have 12 color choices, including yellow, blue, pink, white, green, gray, and orange; two finishes, glass or metallic; and three styles, four-door flex and three- or four-door French door models, which come in full or counter depth.
While the new style and color options are the main attraction, this iteration of the Family Hub does have a few new, tech-focused features. These include an updated, bezel-less design for the signature 21.5-inch touchscreen, which allows the tablet-interface to blend into the glass panel of the fridge, support for Samsung TV Plus in addition to the ability to mirror a Samsung TV on the tablet, and upgraded internal camera technology that can scan food labels.
As previously announced, the new Family Hub fridge will have Samsung’s SmartThings Hub software built in. The smart home platform allows you to connect and control smart home devices such as thermostats, door locks, and cameras right from the fridge.
The SmartThings Hub software is not a replacement for SmartThings Hub hardware, which allows connections to Z-Wave and Zigbee devices. So, you will still need a separate physical hub to control those devices if they are part of your smart home setup.
Samsung made no mention of Matter support for the smart fridge, although the new smart home interoperability protocol that the company helped found is not due to launch until mid-2022. Samsung spokesperson Liv Ren told me there will be more details on software enhancements for the Family Hub closer to the availability of the product in the US, which is slated for the first half of 2022. There are no details on pricing yet, either.
The Family Hub did receive a number of software updates this past year that added to existing features — which include widgets for calendars, sticky notes, shopping, and To Do lists. The most notable was the addition of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, meaning the fridge can now be a giant Echo speaker — playing music and controlling devices with voice commands. Alexa sits alongside Samsung’s Bixby — giving you a choice of virtual assistants.
While primarily a tablet slapped on the side of a fridge, the Family Hub does have some AI capabilities that take advantage of its placement. The three, built-in cameras can analyze the contents of your fridge (as long as the cameras can see the items) and offer up recipe and meal plan suggestions based on what ingredients you have. This uses the built-in SmartThings Cooking app, powered by the Whisk smart food platform owned by Samsung, which can also learn your food and dietary preferences.
Plus, with its somewhat limited knowledge of what’s in the fridge (it can only see items in the main compartment that aren’t hidden behind other things or stashed in Tupperware), the app can suggest missing ingredients for those recipes and automatically add them to your online grocery cart. SmartThings Cooking supports Walmart, Kroger, Instacart, and Amazon Fresh online shopping.
Another updated feature is the ability to manage expiration dates: the fridge scans the food labels using the cameras and pops up an alert when your milk is about to go bad.
These features are still limited in their functionality, but this type of intelligence in our appliances does feel like a solid step toward the smart kitchen of the future. And while slapping on some stylish pastel shades to broaden the appeal of technology in the kitchen doesn’t add much to the utility, clearly Samsung is hoping it will convince a few more people to add it to their homes.