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Why I Hate the “Smart” in “Smart Devices”

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When I was a kid, ‘smart’ used to mean something. If you were smart it meant that you learned things faster, you were probably a little weird and you got good grades. Everyone knew what ‘smart’ meant. But the problem with calling devices ‘smart’ is that it doesn’t actually mean anything. Or, arguably, it means too much.

Nowadays, it seems like everything is smart: smartphones, smart computers, smart TVs, smartwatches, smart locks, smart houses, smart lights, smart vacuums… you name it, and you can probably find a ‘smart’ version of it in the works. It’s like a word epidemic, and I doubt that we’ll be able to stop it or cure it.

In fact, ‘smart’ has become one of those words that advertisers just use to get your attention (kind of like ‘fat free’ or ‘organic’ on foods), but it doesn’t always mean what you think it means. If you try to look up a definition of ‘smart devices’ you run into the problem that it means different things for everything. Wikipedia uses the following definition:

A smart device is an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously.

So basically, it does stuff that normal devices don’t through some sort of wireless (or other) method. And it does it on its own (sometimes) and can (kind of) interact in some way with other devices or networks or things. Gee, that’s really specific and helpful.

I think smartphones are probably the worst of the so-called ‘smart devices’ as they are not only not all that smart, but they arguably aren’t phones either. They’re more like tiny mobile computers than phones, and hardly anyone actually uses them to place calls. In many parts of Great Brain, smartphones are referred to as ‘mobiles’ which is slightly better. But maybe I’m just picky. What do you think? Should we rename smartphones? Give me your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!