What makes it “Smart”?

What makes a smart product?

How have we been turning things on and off? We’ve been turning on the light switch on the wall manually. Plug something in manually. Locking deadbolts manually. Directly controlling thermostats. Basically the light bulbs, outlets, locks, etc that do not connect online and does not have automations, are not smart products.

Smart products can be turned on and off manually, but it does have the ability to turn its on and off automatically, based on criteria you want. Examples:

  • Schedule based. Turns on at specific time and off at specific time. It can also be turned on based on dusk and dawn which in itself is always slowly changing daily.
  • Mirror other smart products. A smart bulb can turn on when another smart bulb turns on. If you have a large room with ceiling lights and table/floor lights, they can come on when the ceiling lights comes on, and vice versa.
  • Lights come on when the doors open, or turn off when you leave the house.
  • Smart locks can automatically lock/unlock deadbolts based on your location, fire alarm, etc
  • Kettle plugged to a smart plug that turns on in the morning based on your morning routines.

There will be some products that might seem like smart products, but they are not smart products. Examples:

  • Timers that a lamp can be plugged into. They are fixed single purpose devices, turning lamps on and off based on a fixed schedule. If you wanted it to come on or off earlier, you have to manually physically override the switch
  • Newer thermostats that have scheduling built in, including ones you can connect online but ONLY to adjust it manually. They follow a fixed schedule, and does not adjust based on external factors. If you leave for vacations, it will still follow a schedule unless you manually override it.
  • Deaf Notification devices that you plug in a standard white bulb into, with specially designed doorbells, telephone ring signalers for TTY, baby cry monitors, etc. They are specifically designed to flash certain patterns specifically for certain actions. They are not smart devices as they are a standalone specifically designed devices. It cannot activate on any other external factors except for its own triggers.

Some uses of smart devices would be the following:

  • When the smart smoke detector detects fire, it can automatically unlock your smart deadbolts, unlocking the door. Making it easier for your neighbour to run in and rescue your pets if no one is at home.
  • Connected to weather network. Turn a coloured smart bulb to blue when there is rain in the forecast, so you can go outside to your backyard, gather all your towels and swimsuits and bring them inside or put toys away.
  • Set a morning routine. 5 minutes before you wake up, the smart lights can turn on very slowly, over a couple of minutes to help you wake up easily. Smart plug activates to turn on a kettle and boil water. You get up, walk over and pour a cup of tea. If you happen to wake up 45 minutes early and can’t go back to sleep, activate the morning routine earlier with your phone, and the kettle can start boiling water earlier. Cannot do that with a non-smart product.

Typically the easiest way to identify a smart product is if the product itself can connect to your home network, and set automations for it.

See you all next week!

Published by Ross LaVallee

Deaf, smart home enthusiast. Plays around with smart home technology to see how much can be squeezed out of it to benefit the Deaf / Hard of Hearing community for accessibility uses.

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