As someone who advocates automated & functional design, I follow the links, shares and likes across all my social media pages very closely. I also spend way too much time Googling for snippets of new technology, particularly the smart devices for our homes. But this is where the problem lies…
I used to come across a new ‘smart’ device maybe once a fortnight. Some of them would make me uncontrollably yell “Boom!” as I could just envision how these inventions were going to change lives. The rest, however, had some benefits, but either bordered on or were deeply entrenched in the wilderness of “gadgets”. These are the items that give short term entertainment but don’t solve a problem or help us in any significant way. Think TV’s with hand gesture control. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just wait until you see someone frantically waving at a TV as if it was a friend giving them the silent treatment, closely followed by that same person yelling violently at this wiz bang gadgetry…
But I digress. I was happy with the 50/50 split with new tech. 50% gadgets, 50% value based devices with benefits that made us safer, saved us time, or perhaps even automated our lives to some degree. However, in the last 6 months I’ve had to activate a new mental filtering system that merges my first-glance recognition with my bullshit-o-meter. The reason being is that there is now a new “smart device” being released, promoted or even crowd funded almost every day! 50/50 has become 90/10!
So this takes us back to the title of my rant – Are “smart devices” really all that smart? This very word “smart” is in vogue at the moment. There is Smart Marketing, Smart Mortgage Advice, Smart Recruiting and of course, there are Smart Homes. But what qualifies something as smart? And is “smart” in 2015 the same as it was in 2010?
Here’s the hard truth – Hand gesturing, voice control and turning lights on and off from your phone isn’t Smart technology anymore. It’s fancy manual control. The same goes for products that give us step-by-step instructions to guide us through a manually controlled operation (think of the smart cooking devices that are slowly filtering through).
It’s 2015 and in order for any of this new tech to sit on the smart shelf I believe they need to tick three boxes:
These devices need to gather knowledge. If they are not receiving constant inputs, updates and information, then how can they best work the way we as consumers want them to? Pre-sets and defaults are good for nothing after being installed in someone’s home, as without knowing basics like time, weather, occupancy and other standard domestic variables, how can they adapt to us, and how can we call them smart?
Sounds unreasonable doesn’t it. Technology having a level of intuition… Sure crazy man. However it’s actually as simple as having an intuitive action based on the intelligence gathered, eliminating the need for manual control. For example, your home should be able to regulate the temperature without you touching a single button. If it is a hot day and the home is getting warm, it should be able to increase ventilation and convection to cool it. If it’s a cold climate and the family is home at 5pm on a weekday, it should start the heating process at 4pm. No touch functionality needed.
What’s the point of having all of this new tech if we have to micro-manage each one of them? There is a huge move toward a DIY environment in the connected home market, and I support it. The more ways to introduce better functionality into the home the better. But before buying that stand-alone smart lock for your front door, consider the circumstances under which this lock will work. If it’s predominately used when arriving home from work you may want it to work simultaneously with your alarm system, entry lighting, or maybe even the audio system? The choice should be there.
If the next device you see on the market impresses at first glance, take a step back and ask yourself:
- Can it measure what’s going on?
- Can it react to the changing conditions? And
- Will it make my life simpler?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then it’s probably worth another look!