Thursday, December 18, 2014

How Smart is that Device?

Nest Self-learning Thermostat
Nest Self-learning Thermostat
In just over two weeks, the Consumer Electronics Show will open in Las Vegas. As the world's top electronics companies present the toys that will be on our Christmas lists for next year, the level of intelligence in those devices will be unbelievable.

Last month, at the Printed Electronics Conference in Santa Clara, California, Fred Theil, CEO of B&B Electronics, explained his scale for determining the intelligence of consumer products.

Smart - A smart device can be programmed. A thermostat that allows you to set different temperatures for different times of the day would be a good example.

Connected - A connected device can access content from the Internet. The classic example is a game console that can stream Netflix movies to your living room.

Autonomous - Autonomous devices learn without being programed. The Nest thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature just as you would have with a traditional analog thermostat.  Each time you make an adjustment, Nest remembers your preferences and learns your patterns to keep your home the right temperature.

Collaborative - These types of devices communicate with each other to coordinate in their functionality. When your security system keeps your thermostat informed about whether or not you are at home, they are collaborative.

I am not sure these particular definitions are used by anyone other than Theil, but they do provide an interesting scale for evaluating new devices. Currently, most intelligent devices fit into the lower end of the scale, but I expect several important announcements of collaborative devices at CES.

Are you looking forward to the day when your refrigerator and your elliptical can converse with each other?

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