Amazon is selling gadgets that can order their own refills

In the future, this will all just be reordered printer cartridges.
In the future, this will all just be reordered printer cartridges.
Image: Peter Wynn Thompson/AP Images for Amazon
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It’s 3am and you just need to print out one piece of paper. Your day depends on printing out that piece of paper. Predictably, the printer says it’s out of ink—a warning you hadn’t heeded earlier, because it wasn’t urgent. Now it’s an emergency.

Amazon wants to rid the world of such inconveniences with a new service that allows your device to order its own maintenance refills.

The company announced the Amazon Dash Replenishment service today (Jan. 19). This is essentially an internal, autonomous version of its Dash buttons, which already let you reorder items at the press of a button. A new line of printers by Brother can now reorder toner or ink when they’re running low; new Whirlpool dishwashers can reorder dish soap, and a smart blood-glucose meter from Gmate can reorder testing strips and lancets.

Once customers buy one of these ever-restocking devices, they can sign up on the companies’ websites for refills through Amazon. Combine this service with Amazon’s forthcoming drone delivery service and you might never need to go outside again.

A self-refilling Brother printer.
A self-refilling Brother printer.
Image: Amazon

Amazon said that the Dash Replenishment service is actually just an API system—a set of commands and functions that allow a computer to talk to a server—meaning that any device that can connect to the internet could be converted into an Amazon-buying device.

Theoretically any device could be configured to buy anything Amazon sells: Your Nest thermostat could be programed to replenish your stocks of hot cocoa when the temperature drops, or your Roomba could order more filters when it notices they’re getting old.

While it might sound appealing to never worry about household supplies, it’s worth considering who will be making your purchasing decisions with Amazon’s new service. Printer ink is an expensive commodity, and ink cartridges always seem to say they’re empty well before they actually are. Constant restocking might also result in more boxes, more cardboard and more fuel spent on transporting your items to you before you actually need them.

Amazon told Quartz that the only notification you’ll receive with Amazon Dash Replenishment is an order confirmation email. Thankfully, if you ever doubt your devices’  judgement, you can cancel the order from the email. Amazon also noted that customers can just turn off the service anytime.