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You might’ve seen them popping up in stores or in your friends’ homes: smart plugs, smart thermostats, even smart refrigerators! But their labels never answer one core question: What makes it a smart device?
Smart Devices are Connected Devices
At a basic level, a smart device is any gadget that connects to the internet and can be remotely controlled or interacted with. Smart devices can connect to each other, sharing info, and working together like a well-oiled machine. That’s what sets them apart and gives them the ‘smart’ label.
Many smart devices don’t connect to the internet or even to a router directly. Instead, they rely on smart phones, home automation hubs, or other conencted devices. The end device may only have a short-range connection technology like:
This is especially true for smaller, lower-powered devices like smart switches and sensors as Wi-Fi is a stronger drain on batter life.
Other Common Features of Smart Devices
Learning and adapting
Most smart devices can adapt and learn over time. Many use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to make predictions about future actions, fine-tuning their operations to meet your specific needs. Imagine your coffee machine starting to brew your cup of java based on what time you wake up each day. That’s some sci-fi stuff, right?
Interconnectivity and smart home ecosystems
Interconnectivity is another massive plus. More gadgets are becoming smart by the day, and their real power comes in numbers. Picture this, your smart lights dim gradually as your smart TV starts your favorite movie, just as your smart popcorn maker pops a fresh batch — feels like living in the future!
Nearly every modern smart home device works with one or more smart ecosystems. The most common of these are:
- Amazon Alexa
- Google Home
- Apple HomeKit
- Home Assistant
These ecosystems empower the interconnectivity of smart devices. Their automations let you string together multiple devices into patterns based on time-of-day, leaving/arriving home, or other events. Amazon Alexa routines can even be triggered by other routines to get your entire home working seamlessly together.
Smart devices often collect data
Smart devices are like tiny intelligence agents. They gather data about their surroundings and about you. I know, sounds a bit creepy, right? But it’s all in an effort to make life easier. Take a smart thermostat, for instance. It learns about your location, previous temperature settings, and even local weather to adjust your home’s temperature, so you don’t have to.
Let’s not forget about security. With more interconnectivity, there’s more sensitive information floating around. It’s now more important than ever that smart devices have robust security features to keep the bad guys out. Look for devices with end-to-end encryption and regular security updates to keep your data safe.
Our in-depth guide to starting your smart home offers tons of ideas for your first home automations. You can also start with a particular goal in mind, like building time-saving automation routines. Or, maybe you just want to dip your toes in, in which case a low-cost Amazon Alexa setup would be the perfect option.
Zak has spent 12 hears in the tech industry focusing on automation, analytics, and cybersecurity. His passion is tech education; he uses his industry expertise and STEM PhD to break down complicated concepts into simple step-by-step guides. When he’s not writing or coding, you can find him binging anything Star Trek or Marvel or reading far too many sci-fi novels.