Some of you may have gathered that I like projects, especially DIY. There is a growing wave of interest around making things at home on your own, rather than going out and buying a commercial product. The people who are part of this growing trend even have a name — Makers. Inside the maker community is a thriving electronics community whose interests run from 3d printing to making wearable electronics fashionable. These tinkerers tend to like to keep their eyes on their creations, send information to them and even get messages back. Lately, some of these gadgets have started to not only talk to their Makers but to one another, sharing data and making decisions based on this data. Now the machines have not taken on a mind of their own, but have been connected as part of the grand designs of their makers. Over the last several years, there have been articles and books published about what has been dubbed the Internet of Things, devices that share information connected over wired and wireless networks.
Commercial manufacturers are starting to get into the act. Now I am sure if you have been into an appliance store recently you have seen the word Smart pinned in front of nearly everything you can imagine: Smart Refrigerator, Smart TV, Smart Coffee Maker, etc. All of these devices in general have one thing in common. They are “connected” or have some feature that uses a sensor or timer to do things for us to improve their operation or reduce their cost. One of the smartest devices on the market today, in my opinion, is the Nest. Nest is a smart thermostat that is connected to the Internet. It allows you to control the temperature in your home from a web browser anywhere in the world, but it is also smart. Nest will detect when you are away from home and adjust the temperature to conserve energy. It learns your routines and will adjust the temperature back to your preferred settings before you return home. Nest uses motion sensors to see if you are home and temperature sensors to detect the temperature in the house. I believe I even read it can check the weather and will make decisions about how to manage the temperature in the house based on the forecast. Smart, right?
More devices are coming to the market or are being built in the Maker community almost daily that connect to each other and make decisions based on our preferences in order to make our lives and experiences better. Devices that turn off the oven if you leave the house or, like the Nest that improves the efficiency of our heating and cooling systems. We are building systems of devices that coexist and communicate, moving us into a world that a few years ago could only be found in science fiction. Voice controls, facial recognition that recognizes you when you enter a room, touch displays that can manage it all and connect you to the Internet — the world of the future is here today. So when you are shopping, even though “Smart” might seem like the newest buzzword to move the latest kitchen widget, be aware that that coffee pot might just be smarter that you think. What’s next? Robots that do chores like in Star Wars? Oh wait, the Roomba does that!