Who hasn't had milk go bad in the fridge and not noticed until all the shops are shut? The prototype Milkmaid "smart jug" aims to solve this problem by detecting spoiled milk and sending a message to its owner informing them of the need to buy fresh supplies.
The Milkmaid was developed as the result of a contest held by General Electric and Quirky - a crowdsourcing site for product development. The challenge was to make everyday objects "smarter with software." Emerging from the various pitches came a request from Stephanie Burns for a milk jug "that tells when it's REALLY going bad." Thus the Milkmaid was born.
There are three aspects to the Milkmaid. The first is its ability to detect when milk is starting to turn. This is managed by a pH sensor in the base. According to the video below milk has an optimum pH level of 6.7, and this drops as the milk starts to spoil. The pH sensor in the base of the Milkmaid smart jug detects these changes and informs its owner by changing the color of its LED lights. In addition the Milkmaid sends a text message to an assigned mobile phone with the status of the milk, which is the second aspect. The third is a free iPhone app (no word yet on versions for Android or Windows Phone) that lists stats about the milk contained within the Milkmaid. This includes how much liquid is left, the temperature, and the expected expiration date.
The quart-sized jug can be removed from the "SmartBase" to be used just like any other container. Thankfully some thought has gone into the look of the jug itself, and it could grace the kitchen of any design-conscious individual with a pressing need for the smart capabilities contained within the base.
The Milkmaid is currently at the prototype stage and the potential product has been offered up to the users of Quirky for assessment. The crowd will now have their say, suggesting the price they'd be willing to pay and how much of a need they feel exists for such a product. Based on the responses the Milkmaid may end up being mass-produced. But that's far from guaranteed at this stage in the process.
There is no doubt this is a clever innovation but I'm not sure how many people will want to pay extra for a product with a raison d'être that can be mimicked with a keen sense of smell and the simple art of sniffing.