David Carr


Put the IoT down and back away from the fridge

Big Brother is watching you and your groceries (image source)

Another CES, another myopic internet fridge, another over-engineered solution to a non-problem that is not going to transform retail and our homes.

2017 should be the year that CPG/FMCG brands, real world retail and kitchen device manufacturers finally come together, connecting the last metre to shelf and the last mile home — by necessity if not by design.

The retail and grocery value chain needs to get its s*** together. Together.

After Media, Retail faces the biggest impact and disruption from digital technology.

Changing consumer expectations and behaviours in the retail and grocery sectors have put the usual suspects on the back foot.

Technology has created new purchasing journeys and new kinds of decisions, and when you change how things are bought, eventually you change what gets bought.

In this context brand owners and retailers need to work collaboratively to stay relevant and partner with manufacturers to avoid Amazon and the new aggregators emerging and shaping consumption in different ways.

Traditionally there’s been an uneasy relationship between these planets: brand owners have media budgets and great insights at the front end of the journey, retailers have great power and data at the point of sale and white goods manufacturers enable the experience at home.

They all have different systems, views, agendas and uncertain ROI.

If collaboration and data sharing occurs then it is unevenly distributed and too focused on gimmicks* like iBeacons or Internet Fridges (Incidentally 2016, among its many lows, finally found a use case for the Internet Fridge beyond dirty fingermark magnet — unfortunately that use case was “as part of a botnet”).

But the lens of these failings points the way to how we can transform the retail value chain: by being Fashionable or Invisible and collaborating.


You mean become a “look at me”, touch-enabled, entertainment centre, fridge of the future focal point like a SMUG? No. Instead we can think about fashion in terms of moving at the speed of culture. Think about the lessons that Spectacles learnt from Google Glass.


Instead of starting from a position that asks people to scan every item they take in and out of a fridge or demands that manufacturers put NFC on every milk bottle and salad, reduce the friction of business and consumption. Don’t make people think, don’t make them do anything at all — let alone look at an App to remotely peak inside their fridge.

In the future of the retail value chain it’s the operating system that matters not the UI, the platform not the app.

In 2017 the data must flow. A combination of computer vision and Scalable Automatic Data Processing powered by sensors and machine learning can bridge the gaps and deliver a better customer experience with fewer lines, automatic payment, geo-located reminders, personalised POS, and even real-time pricing.

We can turn infrequent purchase kitchen appliances** into sensor-driven subscription services — with automatic upgrades, real and virtual access to instruction in the latest fashionable food-fad with deals on the latest ingredients based on usage, success and long-term customer value. Brand owners can use these data partnerships to not only attribute the ROI to their marketing initiatives but shape product innovations and new ranges.

Essentially in 2017 data, machine learning and sensors can lead to brand-grocer-manufacturer partnerships that deliver more than a meal deal.

But we will need to share.

If not, then Amazon will “Just Walk Out” with everyone’s lunch.

— — — — — — — — —

*Gimmicks solving not just the wrong problems but rich-white-males-who-wish-their-mum-still-did-everything-for-them-problems.

What fresh hell is this?

**But be mindful that the kitchen is often the place that UX and rational thought disappears from design in the bid to sell us expensive hot drink machines and pods. Which are great. Unless you need hot water. Or it has run out of water. Or it needs to clean itself. Or it is warming up. Or the filter needs changing. Or the grounds need emptying. Or if you don’t like coffee. Or it has run out of beans. Or pods. Or if you can’t decipher the hundreds of cup related icons with minimal distinctions in on the front interface. Or if you just want your kettle back.

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