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Card-connected, Web-enabled fridge replaces your sour milk

Jay MacDonald

Since the dawn of domesticity, hunters have hunted and gatherers have made shopping lists.

Over time, this gender-specific split of household chores has rendered the typical male incapable of creating a shopping list, returning home without forgetting the milk — or, in my case, both.

But those timeless, eye-rolling, awkward-silence-inducing domestic moments when the hunter returns home, once again outfoxed, from the supermarket, may soon be numbered if a new development from the Internet of Things frontier gains traction.

MasterCard kicked off the New Year by unveiling its Groceries by MasterCard app, developed in partnership with Samsung for their new Internet-connected Family Hub line of refrigerators.

“Consumers are going to be in their kitchen, and that fits a grocery app that can be delivered through a connected refrigerator,” says MasterCard Labs chief commercial officer Betty DeVita. “You can order while you’re seeing if you have enough milk for the next few days.”

With the new MasterCard app, you can input or verbally mumble the items you’re out of directly into the digital shopping cart on the 21.5-inch, door-mounted Family Hub touchscreen. Groceries by MasterCard then posts your shopping list to such online grocers as FreshDirect and ShopRight, secured by a 4-digit password and billed to your U.S.-issued credit and debit card.

You know that auto-fill function on your tablet or smartphone that completes words as you type? Groceries by MasterCard will similarly “learn” your family’s shopping patterns and suggest items or brands to purchase (or “purse snatch,” as my phone would likely suggest).

Mobile, it’s not. However, immobile payments are all the rage these days.

Groceries by MasterCard follows on the heels of Amazon’s Dash Buttons. Its tiny WiFi-connected sensors adhere to things like toilet paper and detergent dispensers around the manse, enabling the resident gatherer to sense outages and replenish at the stroke of a keypad.

It doesn’t take a giant leap to imagine that smart ‘fridges will one day take inventory of their contents and generate a shopping list on their own, so you never run out of beer or broccoli. In the coming year, MasterCard plans to add partners through its relationship with MyWebGrocer, which provides e-commerce and marketing services to more than 130 grocers and 500 brand products.

All of which could well eliminate the problematic middle man in this food chain: me.

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