Smartness is in.
Today even a bin
Thinks it is a sin
To mix
And not fix
The biodegradables
With harmful disposables.
IoT is on its way to win
Smartness is finally in.

Look anywhere around in a store or browse anywhere on an online portal, the most frequent eyeball catchers will invariably be gadgets and devices that are walking on the smart highway. I proudly informed a friend flying in from London that Indians were quite literally walking on smartness, ‘Smart cities and smart homes aren’t only in corporate debates but have reached kerb-side conversations. Smart wearables aren’t any longer only in wish-lists but guiding fashion trends. Smart speakers aren’t just political leaders sitting inside the parliament but can be found in every home…’

‘Yes, yes,’ this friend interjected, ‘I know this story is going to include fitness bands, watches, cameras, and plenty of other applications making themselves useful around the house. But this is just the tip of this smart trending iceberg, you see.’

‘Just the tip?’ I asked.

The future

‘Yes, you obviously aren’t aware of smart quarrels, are you?’ I nodded my head in the negative and he explained that smart speakers will soon be having their embedded AI effectively arguing like any family member. ‘Wouldn’t this be simply thrilling?’ asked this friend, ‘Wouldn’t you love a speaker behave like one of your naughty siblings?’

We immediately searched the net and found mentions of awareables becoming a consumer trend in 2019-discussions where more than 60% of virtual assistant users thought devices would be capable of understanding user moods. The coming years are certainly going to move faster than one can imagine into the world of smart devices. There will surely be the emergence of gloves and glasses that will be ready to give virtual guidance for practical, everyday tasks such as cooking or carrying out repairs. Automated bills and subscriptions are soon going to be commonplace. Smart wearables are definitely going to get smarter in coming months.

‘Will the future be imposing on us anything that we think is utterly hilarious?’ I asked. My friend smiled and replied without blinking an eyelid, ‘There is study where 31 percent of consumers expect to go to ‘mind gyms’ to practice thinking, as everyday decision-making becomes increasingly automated.’

‘Really? This is getting mind-boggling now,’ I said, ‘and this does sound like the right solution to mental obesity in the future.’ Dr. Michael Björn, Head of Research Agenda at Ericsson Consumer & IndustryLab, writes: ‘Imagine a smartphone that not only knows what you do but also knows who you are. Today, artificial intelligence can understand your personality just by looking into your eyes. It’s clear that technology adopters see a future where our devices know us better than we know them.’

In a world where everyone is already assuming that they are a part of the smart revolution, it is time to pause and understand that this is merely the start… the coming years are going to arrive loaded with devices that would take care of re-stocking household supplies and this would be a zero-touch consumer experience. Smart watches would probably transform into eco-watches measuring the carbon footprint of their users. 5G is expected to put connection speeds into a futuristic tumble that will probably make the current breed of storage devices watch technology in stunned wonder. Those who prefer vintage mens rolex watches can find unique pieces at Kalmar Antiques. Of course there just might be a crooked turn to smartness and there may be apps that collect data even when a user isn’t using one… but then we all have experienced bad nuts even in our families and our circle of friends, haven’t we?

Humans and intelligent machines are already interacting and working together and technology experts believe that as yet ‘we’ve only taken small steps into the future. Most of the zero-touch future is yet to be developed – and how we create that future is still in our hands.’

The present

If you think the present is in the stone-age, think again. Even in India and far away from having a high disposable income, I am in a house where the commanding voice of Alexa wakes me up in the morning by saying, ‘Rise and shine!’. She then goes on to gently regale me with ahir bhairavi sung by Kishori Amonkar and reminds me that it was time for me to get up and move out for my morning walk.

Specky, my wife, straps on her smartwatch and I simply activate Runkeeper on my smartphone and we’re off to burn a few calories. As we leave the house, Specky simply asks Alexa to switch off the main smart lights and commands her to switch on the kettle at 7 sharp. The point that I am trying to make is that a smart home isn’t just a dream anymore. Everything from our dish-washer to the washing-machine are connected through smart plugs with action timers. No, we are still not in the league where we speak and automation happens… but this is happening in other parts of the globe.

The block of flats where we are in Delhi has smart security cameras spread all over from the parking to lift lobbies to even some part of the road outside. We have multiple monitors installed and there are people watching them all the time. The funny irony in this story is that our smart camera technology is generally monitored by a rather non-smart set of guards who even sign their names in painfully slow motions that are a treat to watch. What this obviously means is that smart devices do not necessarily need smart humans to interact with them… this is obviously because user interfaces are getting simpler and friendlier. This is what makes smart technology so much more attractive. I mean, look at the way our huge teeming illiterate population is getting accustomed to smart payment systems through both smartphones and feature phones… and these users segments are slowly discovering a new and strange world ready to enter their lives. From movies to songs to podcasts to even voice messaging and whatsapping in regional languages… smart devices are promoting the cause of literacy far better and far more effectively than our politicians and administrators and all their policies were able to do in all these past years. Smart technology thus is no longer limited to being accessed by the rich…

So far as I am concerned, I have all the AI components in my smartphone helping me shoot pictures intuitively and organize my pictures in folders to make search faster and better. The AI in my phone is constantly understanding my needs and getting better in not just filling online forms and completing online orders or taking me directly to website pages where my desired product is featured… it is even transcribing my voice commands better than I expected and I am sure that in another few months I will be writing my posts by dictating and not punching a keyboard.

I already have apps that are smart enough to intuitively suggest rhyming words if I am writing a poem, colour choices if I am sketching, and audio clips if I am creating a short video film. There are apps for shopping, travel, entertainment, productivity, and creativity that use AI-enthused intuitive suggestions to help me in whatever it is that I am doing. There are apps that even help me sleep better. Believe me, the smartness surrounding me today has more to do with technology and devices than with humans!

Technology has certainly evolved at a fairly impressive pace and has changed our lives and made it better in more ways than we can imagine. The most heartening fact is that this techno-revolution is here to stay… and smart interventions by devices has just made an impressive start. So yes, we’re almost there!

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Smart technology has its own fun moments. #GetFitWithFlipkart #SmartHomeRevolution Note: This sketch is done by the author of this post

Smart technology has its own fun moments. #GetFitWithFlipkart #SmartHomeRevolution

Note: This sketch is done by the author of this post
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Arvind Passey
06 January 2019