What’s so smart about your lightbulb?

When it comes to the connected home, there’s a lot of terminology, a lot of words that mean a lot of different things. Often the same word is used in different contexts, to describe similar, but not necessarily the same things. Some terms are fixed. Wi-Fi is a defined specification. When we say something is Wi-Fi enabled, it means it can connect to a Wi-Fi network. Although there are a lot of sub-specifications within the Wi-Fi range, we have a basic understanding of it’s meaning.

Smart

However, when we consider the term smart. It is much broader, and gets applied to many different products. The dictionary definition of smart is:

having or showing a quick-witted intelligence.

In terms of TVs, a smart TV was one that connected to a network, and had a kind of interface that allowed the owner to stream content. The TV isn’t doing anything itself, but this was the definition that came to be associated with a smart TV. We’ve had smart cellphones for years, and although they do some tasks automatically, why do we use the term smart.

Now we’re calling lightbulbs, kettles, fridges and toothbrushes smart. What does this mean? There are two different ways to perceive it. At the basest sense, we are saying they are connected devices. They connect to the internet and allow one to control them from anywhere in the world. But that’s not really smart, that’s just connected.

Ideally when we use the term smart we want the devices to actually be smart. To think for themselves, whether reacting to pre-programmed orders (automation, like light bulbs turning on) or learning our habits and using that to determine the best course of action (like the Nest). Alas, people are not using it in that sense.

Why is this ring smart? It’s not even connected.

IoT

The Internet of Things, is a term used to describe our ever connected world. The way all devices are starting to interact with each other. When people refer to IoTifying a device, they basically mean connecting it to the internet. Again we get back to the term connected. People want to differentiate their product from others, so they repurpose words to try make them out to be something they’re not. All this does is lead to confusion.

So here’s to the connected home of the future.