The Milk and The Fridge Don’t Talk #30 #cong14

By Noreen Henry.

Noreen Henry Milk

We have all heard of the smart fridge; an ‘intelligent fridge’ that will text us as and when we need milk.  But for all its intelligence, there is a glaring weak link – people.  

The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined by CISCO as “the network of physical objects accessed through the Internet ... These objects contain embedded technology to interact with internal states or the external environment.” (CISCO, 2014)

IoT is proposing a world where not only everyone but everything is connected and can communicate with each other seamlessly. In the home of the future, the fridge will sense when the milk supply is running low and send the appropriate text to ensure a resupply, thereby eliminating the weakest link – us.

In March 2002 Forbes published an article by Chana R. Schoenberger entitled “Internet of Things”.  This article predicted that in “in ten years nearly every consumer item will probably bear a tiny chip that continually broadcasts its existence to radio-frequency readers … just about everywhere.”  (Schoenberger, 2002)

Schoenberger (2002) contended that the ubiquitous use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips will bring god-like knowledge to manufacturers, retailers & competitors, as they will be able to track and monitor consumers through the RFID tags embedded in the clothing.   The author depicted the following scenario; After a Prada customer has selected a number of items in a Soho boutique, she is presented with both a video of a model wearing her clothing selection and suggestions for appropriate accessories.   

However, twelve years later, these predictions have not become common place and are certainly not ubiquitous.  TAs of today, there are no chips or readers embedded in either the milk carton or my fridge.  I have also never shopped for Prada in Soho, so maybe!

In the same article by Schoenberger (2002) Ashton (a Procter & Gamble executive heading up a $9 million MIT research project) contended that “we need an internet for things, a standardized way for computers to understand the real world.”    In 2004 Scientific American presented an article entitled “The Internet of Things” by Neil Gershenfeld, Raffi Krikorian and Danny Cohen.  This article presents “Internet-0”, the predicted future of the smart home, a technical solution that “allows a myriad of devices to intercommunicate and interoperate: pill bottles can order refills from the pharmacy; light switches and thermostats can talk to lightbulbs and heaters… Internet-0 provides a single consistent standard.” (Gershenfeld, et al., 2004)

Ashton (2009) argued that “Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all … data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings—by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code.  Conventional diagrams of the Internet include servers and routers and so on, but they leave out the most numerous and important routers of all: people. The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy—all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world.”

Ashton (2009) also asserts that “…Our economy, society and survival aren't based on ideas or information—they're based on things…. We need to empower computers with their own means of gathering information, so they can see, hear and smell the world for themselves”. 

So, my point is - if the predictions from a decade and more ago and Ashton’s views on empowering computers were accurate, I – the weak link - should not have to tell the fridge either what I put into it and/or take out of it; the fridge will not even have to sense that the milk is nearly gone; the milk carton will be able to do it and reorder itself by itself!

However grandiose these predictions, we have not yet achieved them on a commercially available level.   The Internet of Things Council states,

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is a vision. It is being built today. … It is arriving with startling promises of pervasive and endless connectivity and automation. It envisions a new kind of global physical, digital and virtual infrastructure of devices and entities, which will manage everything for us and also through us, from energy grids and traffic, to medical and financial decision-making processes, to the very texture and nature of our daily life.” (The Internet of Things Council, n/d)

So, it looks like I will have to keep buying the milk on the way home until technology catches up!

P.S. The smart fridge mentioned in the synopsis is no longer on the market.

Click to Hear


Ashton, K., 2009. That 'Internet of Things' Thing. [Online] 

[Accessed October 25 2014].

CISCO, 2014. Internet of Things (IoT). [Online] 

[Accessed 25 October 2014].

Gershenfeld, N., Krikorian, R. & Cohen, D., 2004. The Internet of Things.

Available at: 

[Accessed 24 October 2014].

LG, 2014. Our Smart ThinQ™ Refrigerator Couldn’t Be Cooler. [Online] 

[Accessed 25 October 2014].

Schoenberger, C. R., 2002. The internet of things. [Online] 

[Accessed October 2014 25 2014].

The Internet of Things Council, n/d. The Internet of Things Counci. [Online]

[Accessed 25 October 2014].

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie