The Smart Whatever in Internet of Things is Rather Dumb

January 27, 2015

This Smart movement? It’s dumb.

Pinky & the Brain

You probably heard of IoT by now – the “Internet of Things” and how it is going to get everything connected to the internet. Somehow, marketers decided to use the Smart prefix for everything that now has some kind of a chipset embedded inside and a connection that enables other “devices” to interact with it.

The end result?

  • Smart Cities
  • Smart Frying Pan
  • Smart Grid
  • Smart Grill
  • Smart Home
  • Smart Kitchen
  • Smart Lawn (yap, heard that)
  • Smart Lock
  • Smart Oven
  • Smart Power Outlet
  • SmartSense Motion Sensor
  • SmartSense Multi Sensor
  • Smart TV
  • Smartwatch

A crop of smartness I found in my feed reader last week. Smart dust anyone?

The problem is, that none of these devices are smart. They are as dumb as ever, doing the things they always did. The smartness happens elsewhere – it happens when they get connected and you place a brain to control them. And that brain usually lives in the “cloud” – not inside the smart devices.

And as Randy Resnick mentioned on a recent post of mine about Smart TVs:

Smart things are like the all-in one printer/scanner/fax.
– They never do all things as well as individual units.
– You can’t easily upgrade a single technology
– and as for the smart appliance OS, I think it’s obvious
— they usually suck
— updates? At their discretion.

What does Smartness entail?

If you want a device to be “smart” (or dumb, with smartness in the cloud), there are some things that needs to be taken care of:

  1. Security and privacy, a big concern today with dumb smart devices
  2. Automatic and seamless updates of the firmware (another security measure)
  3. Ability to connect to the larger IoT ecosystems that are out there today


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  1. Right you are! All these smart things are so very dumb. They are just a new kind of island, without a means of being connected in a genuinely useful manner.

    We have a Smart TVs, but we have it’s “smarts” defeated in favor of the Tivo Roamio to which it’s attached. Tivo has 15 years history of being the smarts for an otherwise dumb display device.

    IoT as a category strikes me as the evolution of past home automation crossed with a new generation of IP connected mobile gadgets. It’s promise cannot be delivered without some central smarts, including federation of all the disparate devices & protocols.

    1. I just hate the world federation 🙂

      I think a lot of vendors today are aggregating multiple devices by supporting multiple standard and proprietary protocols. My guess is that we will end with 5-6 different protocols and 3-5 dominant aggregation platforms that devices will strive to connect to. Today, these platforms are probably Nest and SmartThings with a few more runners up.

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