Just Because It's Connected, Doesn't Mean It's Smart

How can the Internet of Things deliver the Jetsons' lifestyle?
By Christopher Caen
Apr 08, 2018

Today's connected home is a fabulous buffet of smart-home doorbells, garage-door openers, smart thermostats and brilliant voice-activated speakers—all listening eagerly for your next command. We have all been waiting for this day, when the lifestyle of the Jetsons becomes reality and we have complete control over our domain.

However, what we see today is the exact opposite of that vision. In reality, consumers are faced with a confusing smorgasbord of standards, technologies and platforms. At last count, according to the Internet of Things Institute, there are currently more than 400 IoT platforms in operation—or, as McKinsey & Company put it, "If there are 100 IoT platforms, then there is no platform, just aspirants."

It's a mess, and retailers have been put in the position of trying to explain to confused consumers how this all fits together. Target even tried to bespoke the whole experience by building its Open House in San Francisco to show how all these connected devices, well, connect. It's safe to say it's still a work-in-progress. So how are we going to get out of this alphabet soup of technology, standards and protocols?

Amazon and Google think they have the answer with their voice-powered speakers and assistants. Anyone who attended CES this year could not help but notice all the Google Assistant people running around in what resembled a "Where's Waldo" get-up. The two companies are feverishly positioning themselves as the platform that will tie all this nonsense together once and for all.

I'm not buying it.

Don't get me wrong, it's definitely a step in the right direction, but it does run afoul of a couple problems. At ReadWrite, we used to say that just because something has an app, that doesn't mean it is connected—and just because it's connected, that doesn't mean it's smart.

The first wave of IoT home devices went along the lines of apps equaling connectivity. But all those connected lightbulbs and smart thermostats did was to take the interface and move it to your phone. Want to turn on your smart light bulb? No worries, all you have to do is fire up your app and turn it on, which is dramatically better than turning it on with a wall switch, isn't it?

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