‘Things’ aren’t smart, the cloud is

This blog originally appeared on Sogeti’s technology trendlab called ViNT – Vision Inspiration Navigating Trends

How smart can an object become? Can an object on it’s own be smart? Today I want to discuss the often-misunderstood term ‘smart objects’.

Smart Objects as a concept seems to dominate the discourse in describing the web of things. If we connect the physical to the digital, we first need connected objects. But a connection is something different than being smart or having an individual intelligence.

How do objects generate data? To generate information, objects need several things. One of these things is embedded software. This embedded software enables objects to generate data and to send these data to a network. But what is the smart part then?

Take a fire alarm,for example . When a fire alarm senses fire or smoke, it will give a signal (alarm). But does that mean the alarm is smart? No. When I make a grilled cheese, ‘things’ can go wrong. When I leave it in the machine for to long, it will also generate smoke that the fire alarm will sense. The fire alarm cannot separate different types of smoke, so it is not smart.

A thing is not smart nor intelligent. It works, if you ask me, more like the IFTTT principle. IFTTT, If This, Then That, is a logic programmable process that allows objects to react on situations as they occur. Things aren’t smart, but the collective amount of things can be smart. The cloud is smart because that is the place where data meets data. That is the place where patterns can be found. The cloud is the place where fire alarms can see the difference between a house that is on fire, and a burned grilled cheese. The smart part, a sum of the collective, is created in the cloud.

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