Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When is a Smart Device Really Smart?

(slightly philosophical)

There is a glut of device categories that have 'smart' in them: smartphones, SmartTV, Smart Camera, and of course, our favorite SmartGoggles

What is it that makes a device Smart?

Quite often, it seems that Smart, in the context of devices, is synonymous to connected. A SmartTV is actually an Internet-enabled TV. Smartphones used to be just integrated phones: camera, organizer, mp3 player, phone and then advanced to being connected to a data network. By itself, does that make them smart? I don't think so.

When we speak about humans, smart is another word for intelligence. We don't say that a person is smart because he is well-connected (lots of friends on Facebook?), but because he is exhibiting intelligence.

I don't think the Stocks application on the iPhone is smart because it just retrieves stock price from a database. One could argue that the Siri application on an iPhone 4 is smart because of its natural language processing capability and seeing ability to understand what you mean with your query.

Going back to goggles, I don't think goggles should be called smart just because they are Internet-enabled. It's the extra layer of intelligence and understanding that makes it smart. Goggles that sense that your head is pointing north are just a sensor. Goggles that sense that you are running require additional intelligence. Goggles that display context-sensitive information based on location, time, calendar, proximity, and more are even smarter.