First there were smart phones, then came fridges, TVs… even watches. So do we need everything to be web-connected? Would a smart world really make our lives easier or is it just technology for technology’s sake?
I’ve always been interested in the development of words, and enjoy hearing about new additions to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Before too long we’ll be reading about the word ‘smart’ gaining an extra definition when used as a prefix to products such as TVs, phones and alarm clocks.
The term ‘smartphone’ was first coined in 1997 by Ericsson, when the GS88 handset was released, although the IBM Simon from 1992 could have been labelled smart with its email client and ability to receive faxes.
Smartphones these days are commonplace, and according to a recent Olswang report, 22% of the UK population owned one in March this year.
What makes a product smart?
The term smartphone initially described a mobile phone that was able to do a bit more than simply make calls and send texts, but these days smartphones have speedy web-connectivity, capacitive touchscreens, high-spec cameras and the ability to download third party applications.
And while Smart TVs don’t have all these features (would users want a TV to take photos?) the web-connectivity and app-based features are there.
Smart TV is a growing trend, and the available features have genuine consumer benefits that go beyond the gimmicky nature of 3D TV. The big TV brands are all bringing out smart TVs with a host of features including on-demand video services such as iPlayer, Skype video calling and multi-player gaming – however not all have adopted the ‘smart’ moniker yet.
Until last year, Samsung’s web TV service was called @internetTV, while Panasonic’s was branded Viera Cast. It was only recently that LG and Samsung both started to use the term Smart TV, and now that stores such as Currys are using it too, it’ll be just a matter of time before we all are.
Is it dumb to live in a smart world?
I’d like to see smart watches. LG and BlackBerry have launched watches that double as phones in the past, and they didn’t exactly catch on, but what I’d like is a watch that allows me to keep up-to-date with news headlines on topics I follow, and live sports results of the teams I support.
And I don’t want it to stop at watches. I’d also welcome a smart alarm clock that knows my work schedule and factors in live traffic and transport issues before it wakes me up. And, perhaps a step too far for some, but imagine smart glasses that could display additional information from the web, on request, about where you are and what you’re looking at.
Already we’re beginning to see more smart fridges. I scoffed at these initially, and I still don’t think I’m ready to let the fridge do my grocery shopping, but I can see the benefit when it comes to recipes. I regularly use online recipes and would rather refer to a splashproof screen on my fridge door than spill custard on my laptop.
So my question is: do we need everything we own, such as our phones, cars and alarm clocks to be web-connected and communicating with each other? You must at least be with me on the smart alarm clock? Everybody would welcome the occasional five minutes longer in bed each morning.