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Refrigerator coupons

Someday, we’re told, our lives will become so much easier once our home is filled with “smart appliances”. But today’s smart appliances don’t always live up to their names. The latest smart refrigerators, for example, have touchscreens and can connect to the internet. But if you want to fill that fridge with food by putting together a shopping list and collecting coupons, you’re pretty much on your own.

Now, one appliance manufacturer wants to make the fridge do all that work for you – knowing what you need and compiling a list, as well as searching for coupons and monitoring sale prices, so you don’t have to.

An appliance that keeps track of coupons and sales? Who would have guessed that a refrigerator, of all things, would be able to give coupon blogs and message boards a run for their money?

This coupon-friendly refrigerator is described in a newly-granted patent awarded to Sears. The “coupon service application” would maintain an inventory of grocery products in your home, and “compare the home inventory and shopping list against a database of available coupons.”

To understand how it would work, you first have to know what current “smart appliances” can do – and what they might be able to do in the future.

Several manufacturers have produced prototypes of refrigerators that can keep track of their contents, if you scan bar codes or enter information on a touchpad as you put each item inside. Those smart refrigerators could become even smarter, though, if radio-frequency tags are embedded into product bar codes, which tech pundits predict could happen in the near future. That would allow the fridge to read bar codes on its own, and let you know when you’re missing a needed item. It could make note of things like expiration dates, and alert you when it’s time to replace an out-of-date product. And shelf sensors could detect when you’re running low on milk, and add it to your shopping list.

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And Sears now wants to add coupons to the mix.

Its invention would “receive inputs from a retail organization about coupons or other retail offers that are currently available.” Presumably these would be digital coupons, which your refrigerator would suggest – or maybe even automatically load to your store loyalty card – as it creates your grocery list.

Users would also be able to “share and save coupons, use coupons for online purchases, check their home inventory while away from home, monitor the price of certain products and compare the price against an average price and track historical savings.” If you set a desired price point, the fridge could monitor online sales circulars and “provide an alert when the price of the particular grocery item equals or falls below” that price. And if the refrigerator finds a better deal, it could “suggest a coupon or retail offer from an alternative brand.”

And Sears says its invention won’t be limited to just refrigerators. It envisions someday applying its technology to your “oven, microwave, pantry, slow cooker, bread machine, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, tool chest, home entertainment system, television, coffee maker, etc.”

A coffee maker that sends you coupons for coffee? A toaster that monitors the price of bread? It could happen!

Some of today’s most high-tech refrigerators go for several thousand dollars. A truly smart fridge that automatically knows what it contains, makes a shopping list, suggests coupons and alerts you to sales, will probably cost a whole lot more, whenever it makes it to market.

So it’s a good thing Sears’ fridge will suggest coupons. Because after buying one – you’re probably going to need all the coupon savings you can get.

2 Comments

  1. Snarkier Headline: “Ailing retailer promises to lead IOT innovation, down the road, someday, trust us it’s gonna be big!”

  2. Southernreverie says:

    You must also bear in mind that smart appliances usually also report back what they learn about your personal habits. Said refrigerator might start fussing at you about opening the door too often, or leaving it open for too long. Your health insurance company might want to buy your info from your appliance company so they can determine if you are maintaining a healthy diet. The implications are truly creepy!

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