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Why the smart world is still so dumb

18 Jun 2015  | Cees Links

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Have you heard? The Smart Home will change everything.

The Smart Home will revolutionise how the electronic and technology industries function in the future. Because of the Smart Home, how we live our lives will totally change.

The industry is alive with Smart Home buzz, excitement and promises. Unfortunately a lot of it is just hype. It is just not real. Yet.

Smart Homes and the IoT
Various analyst groups and industry prognosticators have been tossing out some very big numbers. According to these fortune tellers, within the next few years, there will be hundreds of millions, tens of billions, even trillions of smart homes connected by the Internet of Things.

However, if you take a careful look at what is really happening – if you actually count up the number of homes that actually are "smart" – having intelligent systems installed within them that actually make our lives smarter, easier and safer, you will see that the number is actually pretty small. Why?

Because today's – and tomorrow's smart homes – are not very smart. In fact, most of them are still downright dumb.

This is because people are confusing "connected" with "smart". Just because a house, its devices and its systems are connected to each other and to the Internet, enabling the home owner to monitor and maybe even control what is happening in the home from a smart phone, does not make the house smart.

To be smart, the smart house actually needs to have some intelligence of its own. It needs to be able to gather information from its network of sensors, review and analyse that data, and then take some kind of action – without a human person in the loop to make the decisions for it. Sentrollers need to actually do something without waiting for us – their masters – to tell them what to do!

Smarter cars
Let's compare our cars to our homes. Yes cars are smaller and in most cases, less expensive than a house. Usually cars also have much quicker technology cycles than our homes. If you look at the big picture, a house's technology really has not changed much in the last century whereas automobiles have gone through many evolutions. Aside from having four tyres and a steering wheel, today's cars would be totally unrecognisable to a driver from a century ago.

How are cars so much smarter than homes? One of the most obvious is automatic door locking. You can press one button on your key fob and all the car doors lock or unlock. If you are sitting in the car, and you press the lock button, all the doors lock. Or when you drive away, all the doors automatically lock as a standard security measure. Wouldn't it be nice if all the doors in your home also worked this way?

Also ABS – Anti Lock Braking. Your car is smarter than you are. Designed to help prevent skidding during a sudden stop, ABS overrides your foot slamming on the brakes in an emergency and instead pulsates the brakes, enabling you, the driver, to keep much better control of the car as you safely screech to a sudden halt.

What happens when you take your modern car to the garage? The technicians can hook up a device to your car's central computer, and within minutes, can discover the status of many of the vehicle's systems and sub-systems. In addition, if the auto maker has come up with better software and tuning for your vehicle, it can download them to the car and improve safety and performance. It would be great to have our home's air conditioning, heating, appliances, etc. and other systems able to be upgraded in a similar way. Recently, Tesla announced a software upgrade to their latest electric cars that will activate the vehicle's various sensors and enable the car to now be smart enough to operate without a driver. A software upgrade will make existing vehicles on the road smarter and autonomous. That is impressive.

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