Not too long ago, maybe you remember, most at-home tasks were done by hand.
From vacuuming the carpet and cooking dinner to turning on the lights and adjusting the temperature in the room, all the day-to-day domestic drudgery required some degree of manual labor.
Those days are fleeting as the rapidly evolving tech industry continues to unveil new convenience contraptions that are triggered by sensors, computers, timers and the sound of our voices.
“Smart” this and “connected” that. Society has grown accustomed to using simplified tech lingo to describe the latest nifty devices, but have you ever stopped to think about what it all means?
It’s easy to use the terms smart and connected interchangeably, but the truth is they’re not exactly the same thing.
Here are the differences between these similar technology terms:
Connected vs. Smart
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In November 2014, Michael E. Porter, professor of business administration at Harvard, and James E. Heppelmann, CEO of computer software company PTC Inc., broke down the differences between connected and smart technologies in the Harvard Business Review.
Connected devices, as described by the duo, have ports, antennae and protocols that facilitate communication between a product and its operating environment.
Simply put, “a connected device can share data directly with other devices or over a network,” said Rick Kowalski, senior manager of Industry and Business Intelligence at the Consumer Technology Association. “The data transmission can be one way or two way.”
A simple door or window sensor that tracks the state of your home’s entryways is an example of a connected device, Kowalski said. These devices solely let you know if a window or door is ajar.
Smart tech, on the other hand, is often more complex. These gadgets contain sensors, microprocessors, data storage, controls, software, and, typically, an embedded operating system.
“Smart devices enable more than just connectivity,” said Kowalski. “A smart device typically has an operating system that will let you connect with other information services, entertainment services or apps.”
Take a smartphone, for example. Not only does the device allow you to browse the internet and make calls, but it also lets you connect to apps that unlock endless possibilities.
Some wireless home speakers are solely connected, allowing you to play music from your smartphone via Bluetooth connection, while others that can be controlled by, say, Amazon’s cloud-based voice assistant (Alexa) are considered smart.
“Speakers didn’t become ‘smart’ until they added digital assistants that gave us answers to our questions, access to our music services, and the ability to control our smart home devices,” Kowalski said.
USA TODAY Tech contributor Jennifer Jolly gave us a tour of a prototype of the smart homes of the future, called KB Home ProjeKt, which features moving walls, 400-plus smart appliances and much more. USA TODAY
Smart home vs connected home
The terms smart home and connected home have evolved to be used interchangeably, Kowalski, a consumer tech expert, said.
A truly smart home is equipped with lighting, heating, or electronic devices that can be controlled remotely — as in when you’re away from your home — by a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Using the technology within the home, you can control and see what is going on in your house, even when you’re not there by using websites or apps on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
For instance, if you’re expecting a delivery while you’re away, you can install a home camera that allows you to check in on your front porch. That way you can see when your package arrives or interact with people who come to your door even when you’re away.
Smart thermostats are intelligent because they can make calculated decisions based on other system components, such as the owner’s previous room temperature adjustments, built-in algorithms, and sensors.
Smart TV vs Regular TV
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There are two major differences between smart and non-smart televisions. Smart televisions can access the internet and they can be boosted with apps—just like a smartphone or tablet. “Dumb” or regular TVs aren’t manufactured with those capabilities.
Similar to regular TVs, however, smart ones come in many shapes and sizes and you can get an LCD or Plasma.
You used to have to connect a computer or laptop to a conventional TV if you wanted to access Internet-based content. Nowadays, thanks to third-party hardware devices like Google Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku, regular TVs can become smart-er.
Still, truly smart TVs have access to streaming services like Netflix and YouTube built in.
Internet of Things
Also known as IoT, it’s the umbrella term that refers to the connection of devices to the internet. These devices broadly encompass connected appliances, connected cars, wearable tech, smart health and fitness, security cameras, smart TVs, smart clothing, smart homes, smart cities and all of the services that are layered on top of those.
As the Internet of Things grows over the coming years, more devices will join that list.