There was a period not so long ago during which electronics manufacturers insisted on attaching the word ‘smart’ to all of their products. There were smart-phones, smart-watches, smart-toasters and smart-kettles. Every device, it seemed, needed to be equipped with some kind of microchip – and this is a trend which has persisted in some areas, and died down in others. The truth is that your blender probably doesn’t need to come with wi-fi connectivity, and that classically-styled dressing tables aren’t going to be improved by needing to be plugged in.
There are, however, a few smart devices that really have stood the test of time, and that are likely to ultimately get fancier and more widespread.
Mowing a lawn is one of those menial tasks that – barring some obscure meditative benefit you might get from it – we could all probably do without. A machine can, fortunately, do the task just as capably as a person. It’ll even return to a charging station automatically. The same benefits apply to vacuum cleaners (though these haven’t quite conquered the stairs yet.
The 2010s saw the rise of the smart assistant, and the coming-of-age for voice activation technology. Now you can issue commands, or Google questions, by simply speaking them. Of course, some people might be hesitant to put an always-on microphone in their home, and connect it to a machine-learning algorithm somewhere in California; still, there’s something to be said for the convenience of being able to order more ink cartridges without even getting up off the sofa.
A smart television is one which can connect to the internet, and download special ‘apps’. The most important of these are the streaming services which form the basis of modern television. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Apple TV: the market is soon to be saturated with services of this kind, and you’ll need a smart TV to truly get the best of them.
A smart-meter allows you to easily monitor your energy consumption, and make changes in your lifestyle accordingly. At the same time, it provides a benefit to the energy providers, by helping them to manage the load on the grid, and by allowing them to take readings without sending an engineer to your property. Widespread adoption, in theory, should bring down the cost of energy.
The fridge of the future shouldn’t just contain your food – it should perform stock takes, as well. You might get warnings when a particular item is about to expire, and have access to updated shopping lists when you’re out and about. Moreover, you should have access to extra, non-food features – given that fridges with this capability will have large touchscreens on the front.
The cost of all of these technologies, so far, puts them beyond the budget of most households in the UK. (The only exceptions being the smart assistants, which make their money by harvesting your attention and monetising it). But as time goes on, the cost of entry will decrease to the point that we’ll forget what manually mowing the lawn was even like. What a time to be alive!