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Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Published at 15:30 GMT


Making your kitchen cool

What can I have for supper?

The computer is moving off the desktop into every home appliance
This has got to be the coolest gadget yet for the kitchen: a fridge freezer that is hooked up to the Internet.

Screenfridge, as it is called, allows you to send and receive e-mail, watch television, pay bills and handle personal banking. You can also keep food in it.

The prototype device, to be launched in the year 2000, is the combined work of ICL, who provided the computer software, and Electrolux, inventors of the robotic vacuum cleaner.

[ image: This trolley does more than go in a straight line]
This trolley does more than go in a straight line
By connecting direct to a store, Fridgescreen can be used for home shopping.

Vision of the future

"Imagine this," says Adrian King, president of ICL's Retail System Division. "You're in the kitchen and notice that you are running low on eggs.

"You swipe the carton past the barcode scanner, which makes a note on its personal 'shopping list'. You do this for all the items that you need.

"When you're ready, you send the list to a nominated supermarket who can then make up and deliver the order to your home."

[ image: We've already had the Internet microwave]
We've already had the Internet microwave
If you still love the Friday night crush in the supermarket, you can have the list transferred via radio link to a handset on an intelligent trolley. This will sort out the shopping into aisle order and add up the cost as you go along.

Rise of Kitchen Managers

"Internet shopping is taking off, but until recently it was mostly the sale of books, CDs and other leisure or entertainment items," says Graham Grage of Electrolux's newly formed New Business Unit.

"Also, it focussed on the PC or Web TV, which are not in the right place for people we call Kitchen Managers. This development brings home shopping directly into the kitchen and thus into the hands of the Kitchen Manager."

[ image: The intelligent bin will sort the rubbish for recyling]
The intelligent bin will sort the rubbish for recyling
Fridgescreen comes hot on the heels of the Microwave Bank, another prototype that offers similar Internet related functions. Both devices signal that the kitchen of the future cannot be that far away.

"The next stage in computing is one that is moving computing devices beyond the desktop into everyday everyday appliances, says Stephen Emmott from NCR's Knowledge Lab, "including washing machines, fridges, telephones and clothes.

"We'll see intelligence embedded in everything we come into contact with."

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