Tech tidbit: an observation

Newt might’ve been onto something. It’s jarring to see pieces about the “internet of things” written using a dumb vs smart dichotomy. Once something becomes networked it becomes a “smart” device where previously it was a “dumb” device. It attributes an odd sense of inferiority on mere “manufactured” devices which are excellent at what they do–toasters, for example. Why do we refer to networked devices as “smart” inherently?

The article that sparked this thought train.

Certainly having Internet access gives one access to greater information, and having networked devices enables one to easily and efficiently collect data on such machines, but to what end? Smart meters in electricity are lauded as reducing the guessing game and allowing power companies (and homeowners) to evaluate their electricity usage and ways to reduce consumption. But they involve many pros and cons.

The myriad definitions of “smart” make defining networked devices as smart devices quite easy, and meaningful when assessing this dichotomy. In terms of smart meters, one might say they’re called such because choosing to install one could be a shrewd investment in ones energy savings. However, when it comes to devices with more fluid functions, like the smartphone, it becomes a bit more difficult to discern where such a prefix came from, and why analog devices have come to be known as “dumb”. Perhaps instead of shaming Newt Gingrich for his tech illiteracy we should entertain the idea that he might, in fact, be onto something as he searches for a new definition that goes beyond calling a networked device merely “smart”.