The term smart means having a quick-witted intelligence when it is applied to people. That said, the use of ‘smart’ in relation to devices only began to take off when the first generation of microprocessors started to be used within smaller devices, such as phones and tablets. However, their defining characteristic is not their portability. Instead, a smart home device is something that is able to connect to others, that is in tune with its environment or intended task and which can either be adapted or adapt itself to suit different circumstances.
In short, a smart device has the ability to function in a way that is seemingly much more intuitive than previous generations of technology. Sometimes this will occur because of internal sensors and ambient control mechanisms and sometimes it will be down to their inter-connectivity. A smart watch, for example, might be able to measure your heart rate from a built-in mechanism or it might be able to download your health data from an approved source over the internet. In both senses, the device is said to be operating in a smart way.
Now that we have dealt with some of the basic definitions surrounding smart devices, let’s turn to some more concrete examples.
The Development of Smart Technology
It was back in the early 1990s that computer scientists began to think about the various forms smart devices might take. As microprocessors became more ubiquitous – and smaller – so they became cheaper and easier to fit into devices beyond standard desktop computers. What was imagined then were three so-called form factors, namely tabs, pads and boards. Tabs were the smallest form and correspond to certain card readers and mobile phones. Pads are the intermediate form and relate to notebooks and tablets. Boards are deemed to be larger devices, such as interactive whiteboards or surface computers.
As the rise of smart devices – notably smartphones – took off, so the public began to accept the interconnectivity of computer equipment more and more. The growth of the internet as a means of allowing smart devices to talk to one another and exchange data certainly helped. However, the development of other data protocols certainly played their part. Notably, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for near-field communications and 4G and 5G among cellular networks helped to drive the popularity in smart devices.
Soon, product manufacturers were embracing the developments in smart technology and it was no longer simply being deployed in computing equipment. The availability of smart fridges, televisions, home entertainment and security systems as wel as thermostatic controls have all became very popular in recent years. This phenomenon is often referred to as the internet of things. Essentially, it means that devices of many kinds are making use of the interconnectivity that the internet affords to work better and provide diagnostic data. In short, the internet is no longer a communications system solely for people to make use of.
How Are Smart Devices Used Today?
These days, the original form factors of smart devices are still in play with nearly every household in the West owning at least one smartphone and tablet or laptop. However, there has also been a lot of development in so-called wearable smart technology. Wearable smart devices are usually designed to offer low demands in terms of power usage but a high level of functionality. VR headsets, smart glasses and fitness watches all fall into this category as do some healthcare products, such as smart hearing aids or pacemakers.
The other big area in contemporary smart device usage is in what is known as the smart home. This sort of technology includes some manufactured goods, such as smart TV sets which might make viewing recommendations or connect to an app so they can be controlled when the owner is out and about. Another example of a manufactured smart home device would be a networked fridge which allows you to know what items need to be consumed next and will even complete a shop online for you to replenish itself.
More widely, however, the smart home consists of Wi-Fi enabled equipment that simply makes living easier and, to a degree, more fun. Smart Wi-Fi lighting, for instance, can be turned on and off from another device, such as a tablet, without having to get out of bed or even be in the same room. Wi-Fi wall switches also mean that lighting levels and even color temperatures can be controlled throughout a property. Manufacturers such as Sonoff, for example, make both smart light fittings and the switches that control them. Both simply connect to a secure home Wi-Fi network. However, it is not just lighting but all types of domestic devices, such as fans and air-conditioning units, that can function in this way thanks to modern smart technology.