Ovie's smart food storage sent me into a crisis of chores and memory management

A smart fridge without the price tag – kind of

Ovie's smart food storage: Too much?
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The pitch is this: we throw away a lot of food because we don't keep track of how fresh it is. 40% of the food we buy on average (for Americans), in fact, or $2,000 worth a year. So why not cut down on food waste with a new connected tupperware gizmo, Ovie's Smarterware, that can show you at a glance what's fresh and what needs to be eaten today with alerts and recommended recipes based on what's in your fridge, all for $60 to $185 on Kickstarter?

Read this: Five connected kitchen set-ups to consider

Here's what I like – it's a lot cheaper than a whole new smart fridge complete with multiple cameras and voice assistants and screens. And that's clever. The goal of reducing food waste is also hella noble. And so far at least 139 people, to date, agree enough to back the project's crowdfunding campaign which is aiming to raise a quite modest $40,000. With a slick, if slightly wanky video and a realistic February 2019 shipping date, I have no doubt it will raise the funds.

Here's what doesn't quite make sense. The way Ovie works is based on SmartTags with an LED light that is green for 'freshly tagged', yellow when it's halfway to going off and red when you should 'toss it'. (The Smarterware range also includes actual containers as well as clips and 'universal connects'.) But the only way Ovie knows when your food is going off is if you manually tell it - either by being prompted to input the type of food and when you think it will go bad in the companion app or via Alexa e.g. "Alexa, tell Ovie this is peppers." More voice assistants are to follow.

This is the thing – if you are someone who regularly lets some of your weekly food shop go bad and has to chuck it away, that means you don't have the time/mental energy/memory capacity to remember to check the fridge regularly enough or store in your head the 'use by' dates. Will you remember to tag and input info about your food as you put it in the fridge?

Which is actually less hassle – the tagging in the first place or checking the fridge? Be honest – can you see yourself telling Alexa or the app each item of food? The smart home is supposed to make our lives easier, but oftens comes with extra management tasks in order to be useful and this seems no exception. If you're someone who would buy Ovie, you probably write 'use by' labels on your food already.

Ovie's smart food storage sent me spiralling into a crisis about humans and chores

Maybe you just buy a couple because you know you're bad with veg – no harm in that. I am someone who forgets about items when I can't physically see them – if Ovie was automatic (via a camera or similar) I'd jump all over it.

Maybe if you are head of a large household, with multiple children etc, tagging and inputting this info every week or month feels like a good use of your time. And if you're running a household, you're probably a woman, so anything that reduces the burden of unpaid, mental, emotional and household labour by women (and the women they hire) is a good thing right? Right?

Then there's the fact that I am the kind of person to forget about food in the fridge (shameful, I know) – but is the solution to outsource this bit of my memory to an app? We can already ask Google Assistant to remember things for us – "Hey Google, remember the keys are on my bedside table" – and AI assistants are set to play a larger role in storing personal information so we don't need to recall it ourselves. Is chore related info like how fresh our food is the exact kind of data that we should allow AI to take care of? To free up our brains for higher tasks? Or is it one more step in dumbing us down? If the Wi-Fi goes, we won't remember what a carrot is.

And it is data. Amazon owns Alexa and it also owns Whole Foods. The food and supermarket industry is no doubt very interested in the consumption and trends data that connected kitchen appliances like smart fridges are collecting. That's very valuable stuff – so I'd be interested to see Ovie's privacy policy.

I'm probably overreacting. It's just connected tupperware. Excuse me while I just figure out what to rustle up with some ropey looking courgettes.

Would you use Ovie to tag your food in the fridge? Let us know in the comments below.

TAGGED    smart home

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