The latest cool gadget - an Internet fridge

I-appliances are coming to the UK: you can talk to your fridge, and find out how many calories are really in that microwave meal

UK consumers will soon be able to do more than just raid their refrigerator, by October they'll be able to talk to it and remote control it by hooking it up to the Net with a range of other home i-appliances.

LG Electronics believes it will be the first to market globally with its range of Internet home appliances, including fridge, microwave, washing machine and air conditioning system, rolling them out in the UK and Mexico a month ahead of its Australian November schedule.

The Internet fridge, for example -- which LG believes will become the focal point in the home -- incorporates a 15-inch LCD touchscreen, built-in microphone, music player to download online tracks, a digital camera, video phone and electronic diary. You can program it to do the house keeping for you, for example, listing goods that need to be replenished, then you can control it remotely via your PC or mobile phone to send the order through to an online grocery supplier.

By connecting the Internet microwave, with LCD screen down the side, to a PC you can download recipes remotely and count calories, and you can similarly program and monitor the progress of your Internet washing machine via remote control.

"The people we anticipate buying these products are busy executives and people in the high-income bracket," Paul Reeves, marketing manager LG Electronics Australia, said at a media briefing in Sydney on Monday.

Field-tested in the local domestic market for a few years, LG Australia has yet to settle on a fixed pricetag. A UK representative confirmed the local price as around £6,000.

While Robert Hayes, LG Electronics Australia national sales manager, consumer, agrees that price pointing will be an issue in the uptake of i-appliances, he believes the Australian appetite for new technology and historical reputation for being early adopters will drive the price down quickly.

"It's not a question of how slowly, but a question of how rapid take-up will be," Hayes told ZDNet Australia. "Technology drives the price down, economies of scale drive the price down and consumer appetite drives the price down," he added, pointing out that DVD players have dropped in price from around AU$1799 two years ago to just AU$399.

The i-appliances, which run slightly slower off a standard Net connection and require ADSL broadband home connection ideally, will be available from a select group of LG-partnered retailers.

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