Are Smart things making us smarter?

by prakash

Nowadays, we don’t have to learn how to drive a vehicle well because there are systems in the car that is taking care of many things without our knowledge.  We don’t have to remember whether we have switched off the lights before leaving the house. The smart home automation system shall switch off the lights after detecting no sound or activity for some time.

Self-driving cars are the way to go in future. In future, people don’t have to hire a chauffeur. You may just board on the car and tell it where to go. The car shall use GPS to find the optimal route and take you there, cruising through the traffic. You can get down from the car, and then the car will find an empty parking spot for itself. While you are leaving, call the car from your smartphone to be in the entrance in 5 mins. When you reach out, the car will be waiting for you with the rear door open and playing your favourite music, setting the appropriate temperature for your comfort. Awesome!! Not only that, come next the smart fridges. You can check whether there are beer cans in the fridge by sending a message to the fridge. The fridge shall detect that there are only few beer cans left, and then it can send a message for ordering beer cans from the nearest supermarket. The beers shall be delivered in your home without your involvement. Maybe we can term this as “Self-Replenishing Fridges”. The advertising gimmick for this product would be “The fridge that never becomes empty”.

I may sound like a guy who loath technology and who doesn’t want technology to enhance our lifestyle. However, I believe that I am looking at things with a more conservative viewpoint. In my view, most companies are struck in a red ocean, in which the only focus of companies is to create competitive advantage. The companies’ pursuit of doing things better than the competitors tend to expand the chasm between the technology and customer utility.

I agree that future of technology is all about convergence and integration, i.e, the seamless migration from one environment to another for the end user. In a typical day, people spend majority of their time in three environments: home, office and travel. I believe technology is about integrating all three environments together, so that when a user moves from one environment to another, the devices are aware of the movements (contextual awareness) and take appropriate actions. For e.g, when I move from my home network to my office network, my smartphone shall hide my personal profile and show my official profile. I believe consumer electronics giants such as Apple, Samsung have intentions of dominating in each of these environments. Apple has already penetrated our home with iPod, iPhone and iPad. With the tremendous success in the home segment, Apple extended its offerings to penetrate the other two environments with enterprise (BYOD offerings) and automotive (IoS in car). Once a firm has dominant position in one environment it is easy to offer complementary offerings to penetrate other environments. Similarly, Samsung is also attempting to penetrate the enterprise segment with its Samsung Knox offering. I may have missed to notice any tangible drive by Samsung in the automotive segment. However, the eco-system of Android shall work out in favour of Samsung as most of its smartphones are based on Android. With the growing prominence of automotive apps, Samsung is in a favourable position to also penetrate into vehicle with its android smartphones. I believe rather than embedded intelligence in vehicles, it is more beneficial for both the automotive OEMs and end users to extend the capabilities of the smartphones by using automotive apps. This strategy decouples the mismatch in the product life cycle of automobiles and consumer electronics technology.

It is obvious that tech firms will keep on innovating and create new trends to penetrate in each of these environments. It is also infallible that we consumers will become prey of these tech trends and depend more on these machines instead of our brains. Then I really question whether these smart things are really making us smarter or just offer us an illusion that we are becoming smart.