Push the button and the fridge is tidied up
BY CARMELA MELONE
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2018)
After a hard day at work, you come home feeling hungry and quickly order yourself a pizza or get together with friends in your favourite restaurant. You’ve long since forgotten that there is still a leftover Sunday roast in the refrigerator. And that’s how the lovingly home-cooked meals gradually lose their freshness, until at some point they are no longer edible – unless you remember them in time. Around one-third of food produced worldwide is thrown away, and one of the main reasons for this is the simple fact of forgetting the food one already has at home. Ovie, a start-up from Chicago, intends to remedy this with its Smarterware.
Smarterware is a sophisticated system that can tell you what food you have in the fridge at any time and anywhere and, most importantly, how fresh it is. It accomplishes this with what are known as ‘SmartTags’ – tiny, intelligent buttons that are attached either to the specially developed Ovie freshness box or to a clip developed specially for bagged food. The tags can also be attached to a universal holder that can be attached to all manner of containers, including directly on packaging from the delivery service. These SmartTags then connect to the separate Ovie Hub, which registers the user in the Ovie Cloud.
If there are any leftovers, you can pack them up, place them in the refrigerator and press the SmartTag to activate it. Users can specify exactly what the food is either through the app or by simply telling the smart speaker speaker: ‘Alexa, tell Ovie that these are carrots.’ Ovie is currently only compatible with Amazon’s Alexa, but will soon be compatible with all other smart speakers too. Once the food has been classified, Ovie consults its database to determine the average shelf life of the food and uses a LED ring to let the user know the freshness status of the food. With fresh food, the ring lights up green; once a food’s expected shelf life reaches the half-way point, it turns yellow to indicate that the time has come to consume it. If the ring turns red, the user is advised not to eat the food in the container, and to discard it instead.
The accompanying app offers a useful overview of everything stored in the refrigerator, along with the status of each food item stored. A very helpful feature is that the app also suggests recipes for use in preparing the food on hand – with preferential treatment given to ingredients with the yellow SmartTag. The user also immediately receives a message on their smartphone as soon as a food’s status switches from green to yellow – always along with the right recipe for inspiration, of course. The Ovie app also synchronises with a digital shopping list and can indicate how much food has not gone to waste in comparison with others in the area.
The crowdfunding project was completed in June and has been so successful that almost all starter bundles have been snapped up. Preorders can still be placed through the Kickstarter website and the Ovie homepage. The estimated delivery date is early 2019.
Picture credit © 2018 Rendering courtesy of Ovie