Product Assignment : Smart Refrigerator

I recently worked on an assignment to design a smart refrigerator, which I thought I’ll finish in a sitting on a weekend but then I did read up a bit about what’s already happening in the market, which obviously opened up a few more tabs in the browser and the single sitting assignment turned into a project worth spending time on. So, sharing the note I had prepared. Let me know your views and what would you like to add to your variant of a smart refrigerator.

Also, as you can infer, this assignment is part of my self study and journey to become a better product manager. In last couple of years, I have gained a broad perspective on this function. I’ve just tipped my toes, so to say, and there is so much more to learn. So, I’ll try to write more on product management as a theme. This also gives me a new chapter on the topics to write about on this blog, which otherwise had sort of taken a backseat in terms of relevance, as most of my life updates are now broadcasted on Instagram and Twitter (and increasingly on private watsapp chats) because who reads blog posts anymore?!


Problem Statement

Design a fridge for the millennials.

Market research has come back saying that millennials need to have an interactive smart fridge. IOT is the buzzword they want to capitalize on. Design the product to meet this requirement from purchase, initial configuration, features etc. Be as detailed as possible. Try to define metrics/KPIs to measure. Call out any assumptions. Estimate the ROI of the product you are making.

Assumptions on the key requirements of the users

  • Married Couple & Family
    • Both working – optimizing on time and coordination is the biggest need for this cohort, this couple would like to save time in ordering and preparing food, so that maximum time can be spent with each other.
    • One partner working – since one partner is stay-at-home parent/home-maker, considerable time is spent in the kitchen by that member; focus would be on entertainment and equipping her/him with data and content to improve family’s health and quality of life.
    • Families with kids and/or others livings at home – With kids and other people at home, the added features can be around their health and safety. Also shared notes and communication can be a potential need.
  • Single residents – Primary need is to optimise on time, help save time in ordering and preparing food. Since single residents would tend to have smaller houses, another dimension would be to offer auxiliary services such as a coffee maker within the fridge to save space

I am prioritising the family use-case, as the high cost of the refigertor right now makes it unviable for single home owners.

Model Unit

  • Samsung RF28N9780SG/TL
  • Capacity ~ 800 Litres
  • Retail Price ~ INR 2,50,000
  • Retail Price without touchscreen, internet connectivity ~ INR 1,50,000

Usecases –

  1. Food Catalog : The fridge should be able to catalog the food inside it for easy remote access via the door panel and mobile app without opening the fridge. This can be accomplished by scanning the barcodes on the food items to pick relevant info, plus clicking pictures. All this can be done by the phone app, no scanners or cameras needed in the fridge. Search post cataloging can be voice enabled for both the door panel and the phone app. Long range plan – retailers would start printing QR codes which capture all relevant info to automate this cataloging. This helps in 2 ways –
    1. Save time and effort in grocery shopping, can just check the app to recall what’s stocked in the fridge
    2. Helps save power consumption and maitains food freshness when the door is opened fewer times
  2. Expiry Date Alerts : Alerts can be set to trigger reminders X days before the expiry to help consume food when it is still healthy. The door panel & phone apps can have a dedicated section “Expiring Soon” to help monitor these food items
  3. Recipe Recommendations : The door panel app can pull up step-by-step video recipes, some of which can even be stored locally for availability without internet. Voice control to play and pause per step would help further. Recommendations basis the major ingridients available in the fridge can be a section for quick selection.
  4. Video Streaming : In addition to the recipes, the door panel app can pull up videos and music from popular OTT channels basis the subscription plans of the user. The door panel would effectively be the entertainment hub for the kitchen.
  5. Grocery Ordering : Basic feature set would be to run the grocery ordering app of choice on the door panel tab, but a smarter version of it could pickup the stock count and patterns from the food catalog to build the cart, maybe even order some of the common regularly ordered items such as milk, fruits, etc as they are about to get expired.
  6. Ice on-demand : The integrated water and ice dispenser unit in the fridge can now be connected to the door panel tab and phone app to switch on the freezer on-demand. Typical usecase being need of fresh ice before guests coming over, while there is nobody at home to freeze the ice.
  7. Defrosting on-demand : Having separate sections in the fridge can allow for maintaining different temperatures in the containers at any given time. The freezer iself can be split into 2 components – one section which can continue to be at required temperature and the other one which can hold items which need  to be brought down to room temperature at a certain time by a remote trigger or pre-set config. This would help in natural thawing of the meat and other related items, which currently needs to be done manually.
  8. New integrations : These integrations are not digital in nature but hardware components that can be added to the fridge panels,similar to the water dispnser. Remote control by the door panel and the phone app further add to the utility which is difficult to achieve in standalone equipments.  
    1. Coffee/Tea maker : The water dispenser unit can be extended to a coffee/tea make. On the inside of the fridge, a storage unit can made to hold the coffee/tea powder which can brewed on-demand using the same water supply as the water dispenser
    2. Water heater : The water cooling unit can do more than just cooling the water, it can also heat it to a pre-set temperature!
    3. Rice cooker : Similar to the coffee maker, a storage unit can hold the rice and mix it with the same supply as that of the water dispenser to prepare steamed rice
    4. Toaster : A section holding the bread slices can be connected to a toaster to have it ready on-demand. Phone app and Door panel can be used to trigger the loading of the toaster at a configured time.
  9. Smart Connectivity Hub : The door panel tab would support a pool of digital applications like a regular android tablet, supporting common usecases of shared notes, calendars, to-dos, mails, music, budgeting and other apps  that are available on the user’s phone. The handsfree audio/video calling feature can be particularly useful while cooking.

Prototype of the new smart fridge

Key applications to be designed for the display tab and phone app

  • Food Catalog : Add new items, check for contents, expiry date alerts
  • Recipe Finder & Player : Find recipe by search, recommendations basis stock
  • Grocery Shopping : Buy new items manually, recommendations basis stock
  • Operate the fridge : on demand ice, defrosting, toasts, rice, tea/coffee, etc
  • Other apps : as per installation from playstore and sync with phone devices

Key metrics to measure product success, ROI

  • Purchase : measuring the sales funnel – lead > oppurtunity > open deal > closed deal across online, retail and wholesale channels. KPI here would be the % success rate for each stage of the funnel to track conversion and pipeline health
  • Usage : Usage of the key 4 features (first 4 points of the section above) can be tracked by recording anonymous data from the devices directly. This data would help analyse if the features are being used as intented or not on parameters such as frequency, timing, duration. The variation from expected behavior would infact be the leading indicator for intervention and feedback on improvements.
  • Feature Support : Each application in the display tab and the connected phone app would feature a section for direct feedback and complaint registry which would help in understading the specific issues. This section would also be the input for all customer support and related follow-up conversations.
  • Repair & Replacement : Basis the feedback and support requests received, the support tasks would need to be monitored as well. The whole journey from support ticket issuance > assignment of a service personnel > actual service > closure of the support ticket can even be mapped on the door panel to increase transparency in the process. KPI here would be keep the service TAT as per SLA.
  • Referral : To foster high NPS and organic growth of the product, referrals can be incentivised. The door panel can have a special app to generate voucher codes to be used for referals, which upon successful redemption can provide benefits in terms of cashbacks and/or waivers on due EMI payments, complimentary service packs, etc.

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