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Samsung and MasterCard partner to deliver smart fridge ecosystem

Samsung and MasterCard have introduced a new fridge powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as a payments service which will allow customers to order groceries using the white goods appliance.

The new wifi-connected Family Hub Refrigerator was unveiled by Samsung at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week and boasts a 21.5 inch full HD LCD resolution screen on its door. Samsung calls the screen the "refrigerator’s digital family command centre" which allows users to post their calendars, pin photos and notes, and even "share treasured kids’ works of art" using their smartphone.

The fridge allows consumers to identify the foods in their fridge and track product expiration dates. This new Samsung fridge also has three cameras inside which captures images every time the door is closed.

Samsung said: "You can then access those images anytime using your smartphone and take a peek inside your fridge. Even if you’re at the store and forget to check on what you need for dinner that night, you can easily pull up the Samsung Smart Home app and have a look right into your Family Hub fridge."

The manufacturer, which launched its first smart fridge earlier this decade, announced MasterCard as its credit card partner which connects customers to grocers so they can manage their shopping through the white goods appliance.

eCommerce-enabled fridge

Developed by MasterCard Labs and Samsung, Groceries by MasterCard claims to "redefine the family grocery shopping experience by allowing households to share, build, manage and modify their grocery lists and shopping carts throughout the week."

Customers use the refrigerator's screen or their smartphone to add items to their shopping cart – manually or by scanning an item's barcode – and the order is then approved using a 4-digit pin and paid for in a single checkout experience powered by MasterCard which accepts any US-issued credit or debit card. Orders are then delivered by the grocers.

"In a world where every device – from the phone to the refrigerator – is connected to the Internet, the ways in which consumers interact and transact with their favourite brands are changing," said Betty DeVita, chief commercial officer, MasterCard Labs. "We’re developing compelling, safe and seamless commerce experiences for consumers across channels and devices as we continue to eliminate the boundaries between how we shop and how we pay."

The service claims to learn a family's shopping habits and make personalised suggestions. It also plans to introduce recipes and video integration over the next year, as well as additional grocers. The initial US grocers to partake in the service are FreshDirect and ShopRite.

Jodi Kahn, chief consumer officer, FreshDirect, said: "Since launch, FreshDirect has been on a mission to get consumers great, fresh food with less friction. This new technology speaks directly to that mission, giving consumers a new, seamless way to shop for groceries right from their own kitchen."

The appliance will be available in the US from May 2016. 

Making shoppers' lives easier

Internet-enabled fridges have long been an expensive example of tomorrow's technology, but with a supporting eCommerce service, a digital fridge could now be used to encourage more consumers to shop online rather than just checking the expiration date on a carton of milk. 

Speaking to Essential eCommerce over the summer, Steve Madder, vice president of digital retail insights at Kantar Retail, argued that IoT devices like smart fridges will only succeed if they make the shopper's life easier.

He noted many grocers like Waitrose and Sainsbury's are innovating the shopping list through hardware and mobile applications, while the BBC's recipe website also allows readers to buy ingredients in a couple of clicks of a mouse. Meanwhile, Amazon has also launched a device to enable the shopper to scan barcodes of products in their house to add to a shopping list, which is not far removed from the smart fridge concept.

"We're seeing a lot of retailers using list mechanics and trying to activate the list and convert much more easily," he says. "Any retailer should be looking at ways to open up the list platform, using hardware suppliers and software companies to leverage their website."

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