Whirlpool to add iGo's gadget recharger to refrigerators

Whirlpool's latest tech partner, iGo, will enable recharging of devices from cell phones to iPods on future Whirlpool refrigerators

If you dream of turning the front of your refrigerator into something other than a place to stash alphabet magnets and smudged Christmas photos, so does Whirlpool.

Whirlpool again is sharing a vision of a fridge-as-high-tech launchpad, which is not a new idea,as veteran industry reporter Julie Jacobson notes here. (Whirlpool, among others, has been touting ambitious visions of a connected kitchen for busy housewives and househusbands since 2000.)

The iGo recharger Whirlpool

Whirlpool's Centralpark refrigerator, announced last fall, uses a power outlet on the top of the freezer door.

Vendors are starting to offer devices that work with the outlet and hang from the fridge.

Jacobson claims Whirlpool's so-called Centralpark initiative might not be ambitious enough, even calling the fridge a "little hokey."

Nonetheless, Whirlpool's Centralpark model nabbed an Innovations 2008 Design Engineering award from the Consumer Electronics Association and was named one of the year's hottest new products by Home Magazine.

iGo, owned by Mobility Electronics, is the latest to sign on with Whirlpool's Centralpark plug-and-play initiative.

IGo makes a recharging station that works with Notebooks, iPods, MP3 players, Bluetooth headsets, portable game devices, cell phones, and various other gadgets. While Notebooks are probably not the best device to recharge on the front of your fridge, (maybe on top of it????) iGo's gadget-charging device promises to work with more than 2,700 smaller gadgets.

The Centralpark connected refrigerator costs about $2,000. The first (and only) product available for it is Ceiva's Wi-Fi digital photo frame (about $249). The frame has an 8-inch LCD screen and a built-in card reader for displaying thousands of photos on the refrigerator door.

Future offerings will include Ambient's 7-day Forecaster, which brings current and seven-day weather for 150 U.S. locations to users; Brandmotion's iPod speaker station, which holds any size iPod; the Clio Vu Web tablet; and Quartet's Qnote message center, which offers a dry-erase writing surface and ambient surface illumination.

About the author

    Kim Girard has written about business and technology for more than a decade, as an editor at CNET News.com, senior writer at Business 2.0 magazine and online writer at Red Herring. As a freelancer, she's written for publications including Fast Company, CIO and Berkeley's Haas School of Business. She also assisted Business Week's Peter Burrows with his 2003 book Backfire, which covered the travails of controversial Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. An avid cook, she's blogged about the joy of cheap wine and thinks about food most days in ways some find obsessive.

     

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