By now you’d think manufacturers would’ve grown tired of calling everything “smart.” There are smart watches, smart locks, smart televisions, smartphones, smart refrigerators, smart boards, smart cards, smart cars, smart lightbulbs, and even a “smart dildo” (which is really just an Android app — insert your joke here). At this rate Pillsbury will soon be releasing smart brownie batter meant to be mixed by Kitchen-Aid’s smart blender and baked by Whirlpool’s smart oven.
Nobody outside of the industry is referring to these products as “smart” anythings, though. For consumers there are no smart televisions, smart watches, or smart refrigerators. There are simply televisions, watches, and refrigerators, some of which connect to the Internet. And that’s fine. I like the Internet. But acting like an Internet connection makes a product “smart” is like saying Siri has a sense of humor because it can tell a (really bad) joke.
It doesn’t help that many of these “smart” devices are actually stupid. Smart televisions simply make it easier to view Facebook photos or watch YouTube videos on a large screen. Smart watches and smart glasses are little more than accessories for the smartphone, which, let’s be honest, no longer needs to be called that. Is there any justification for referring to a lightbulb as “smart,” besides allowing for puns about how “bright” or “brilliant” it is?
If you believe the Internet of Things will rise, as many in the industry seem to, most future products will be connected to the Internet in some way. Cars will drive themselves. Heaters, appliances, locks, and many other things in your home will go online. (Let’s hope they don’t spam your friends.) Toothbrushes will keep track of your dental hygiene, devices like Scanadu will monitor your health, and your scale will conspire with your phone to make sure you stay away from fast food joints to help lower your cholesterol.
Matt Webb (the ideal name for someone to quote in this article), CEO of Berg, a design studio that created the Berg Cloud Sandbox for companies interested in the Internet of Things, predicts that that the Internet will soon become a commodity — like electricity or running water. You don’t hear anyone calling his TV an “electric television” or phone a “battery-powered communications device.” Internet connectivity is expected to become as standard among consumer electronics companies as air conditioning is in cars or windows are to bedrooms. They’re just there.
So let’s stop referring to every device that connects to the Internet as “smart.” If not, eventually some (smart) ass is going to take it to the next level and lead us down the (smart) road to the (smart) apocalypse by developing a “geniusphone” or a “savant television.” Or perhaps Florida will accidentally write a law banning the use of just about everything you own. Whichever comes first.