When smart is not enough

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When smart is not enoughRemember when the term smart was used to signify brainpower, intelligence, sharpness etc.? When it was used to highlight a distinctive characteristic? When it felt great to hear someone shout out “He’s smart. He’s one of a kind.” Didn’t it? Sadly, things are not the same anymore. Especially, in the technology space, the phrase has reached an existential crisis.

Lately, there’s been a wave of self-proclaimed smart devices that take the “things” part of “Internet of Things” very seriously. In recent years, some of these devices have evolved from an easy source of skepticism to things that are actually worth buying. While I can’t totally dismiss them, sometimes they go past the point of utility and into the land of cynicism.

According to Gartner, there will be 21 billion connected devices in the global Internet of Things by 2020. It also projects that 6.4 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide this year, up 30 percent from last year.

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The smart trend, how it really started?
When we talk about the connected devices category, there are some brilliant products in the wearable, home automation, health & fitness, logistics category that are understanding the user well and adding value. However, majority of others available in the market are not.

Let’s take a step back and understand why and how this trend started. Obviously, it’s because of the success of smart phones. The falling price of mobile device parts, combined with the tidal wave of money flowing into the tech sector, have also contributed to the same. Today, all you need to create a Smart device is to stuff a chip and a low-power Bluetooth module into a home appliance, and hola it’s here. The device earns the title of smart without further thought as to what value it brings to the end user's life in solving real world problems.

Devices are not alone, we have an app for that!
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The so-called smartness quotient is not restricted to devices only, it’s well supported by its software counterpart called Apps- because, there’s an app for that, this and everything today.

Apps have revolutionized and changed our mobile interactions. There are apps like Uber, Airbnb, Instagram and thousand more that have been able to disrupt an entire industry by solving a simple consumer problem. Uber has taken cab services to consumer’s doorsteps at the tap of a fingertip. The lack of a physical booking centre or even a contact number put Uber high up on the global digital map, allowing the ‘always connected’ consumer to choose his/her mode of transport as per convenience and engage in cashless transactions.

So, the question here is, are we really looking at relevance, utility, intelligence and accessibility while designing products today? Or is it just about looking at just one side of the problem/story/picture and creating an app or a device, without figuring out the real value for the consumers?

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Yes, innovation is important for technology to flourish. However, do we really need to clutter the world with smart devices for the sake of smartness?

What we need today are smart devices/ apps that solve real world issues and address existing consumer needs. Even as every other device virtually turns into a smart device these days, it is important not to jump to conclusions about technology innovation and evaluate the same as per relevance. We must not forget that the human brain is still the smartest thing around and logic will never fail us.

(The article is authored by Saurav Kumar, CEO & Co-Founder, Cube26)

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(Image: Thinkstock)