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.

1 comment:

Not Jára Cimrman said...

From a TRIZ point of view, the trends represented in "smart" devices are quite often "increased dynamization" meaning flexibility and "expansion" or more specifically multifunctionality.

Phones became smart when they gained more hard features (mostly I/O methods) and simultaneously more software flexibility.

It makes sense to borrow sub-systems from smartphones to put into HMDs because at this point, nobody can know for sure which extra features users will like. We should expect every possible feature to be tacked onto HMDs before we can work out a standard set of features which would allow for software devs to easily develop cross platform apps.