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WePlenish smart containers are the future of Amazon Dash reordering

Never stop snacking.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The evolution of the Amazon Dash Button is here -- and it's a container.

Smart containers can sense you're running low on inventory and keep you stocked up, automatically ordering refills from Amazon. A South Florida start-up company called WePlenish created a container that does just that, and it has Amazon's blessing. 

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Launching today on Kickstarter is the WePlenish Java: a plastic bin that sits on your kitchen countertop, shopping Amazon on your behalf, provided you're an Amazon Prime subscriber. The company is offering a special price of $20 for early Kickstarter backers, but when the container arrives to Amazon in October, it'll be priced at $40 (roughly £30 or AU$55).

I got to play around with one for a week, and it's clear this container can appeal to coffee lovers. Specifically, coffee pod lovers.

You can't just have the container reorder any item you wish. Right now it's only compatible with about 90 preapproved Amazon items. (And the list is growing. When I first started my test, it was only working with 50 items.) The majority of options are disposable coffee pods, including Keurig K-Cups, or other coffee-type-things like packets of sweeteners and creamers. 

Is this smart container the future of Amazon grocery shopping?

Sarah Tew/CNET

It makes sense to focus on the coffee crowd at launch. Coffee is one of those items you never want to run out of, and yet this also gives folks a place to stash those single-serve pods.

If coffee isn't your thing, you can pick an individually wrapped snack pack on the WePlenish list, including mini bags of nuts, crackers, cookies and candy. 

I don't own a coffee pod machine. So to give it a test spin, I picked an especially tempting treat: gummy fruit snacks. 

The setup is simple. Use the app to connect the container to Wi-Fi and assign it a snack. I picked Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks. Sensors on the inside kept track of inventory, checking in at least twice a day, but may check more often depending on how fast you go through your supply. 

Sure enough, it did autoreorder more when there were about five packets of gummies left. A push alert told me more would be on the way in two days, via the usual Prime two-day shipping perk.

The smart containers are wireless, and battery power shouldn't be a concern. Three AA batteries are said to last an entire year, but you'll get a push alert if power is running low.

The WePlenish Java container is not the first kitchen gadget that goes shopping for you on Amazon: Brita has a water pitcher that orders replacement filters; and GE has a dishwasher that automatically orders more detergent.

stoplookingatmeswan

WePlenish founder Ro Grosman wished there was a gadget that could auto-order food for his swans, Hiss and Puff. That desire gave birth to the Java smart container, although it's not recommended for use with swans.

WePlenish

Target also is testing this concept with a program called Target Fetch. A smart paper towel holder can order more rolls after so many spins, and a smart soap pump orders refills after so many pumps.

Amazon's quest to keep us reordering supplies began with Dash Buttons. One press of a button orders more of one specific item. But instead of needing a button for different household goods, WePlenish sees a future where every item has its own smart container. 

In a visit to CNET's office, WePlenish founder Ro Grosman said he got the idea when he wanted a container that would auto-order more food for Hiss and Puff, the two swans living on his property. The next step for WePlenish, Grosman said, would be to make a smart container that works for loose food items. That means it'll be good for things like cereals, pretzels -- or who knows, maybe even swan food.

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