Smart, or Merely Clever?

New York Times reporter Mike Isaac recently posted a Tweet that made me think about the question, are all these things really smart, or at best clever?

“Smart” is an abused word, used by marketers to describe anything with a microprocessor. What do we mean when we say smart? Clearly the thing itself doesn’t possess any intelligence. Do we mean it is a smart idea?

Let us accept that the term smart can describe a person, dog, or maybe an idea. It doesn’t describe a thermostat or Kabinet, the kitchen computer that takes voice commands for placing orders on Amazon (whose problem are they solving with that one?). For me, assessing a new idea always comes down to a few things:

  • Does it address a real problem?
  • Is the problem worth the solution?
  • Is it significantly better than the alternatives it replaces?
  • Is it well designed?

The last point is significant because many good ideas fail because of poor execution.

We are experiencing an unprecedented number of new products – big companies and small startups are all jumping on a few trends to push out new product ideas:

  • Inexpensive prototyping technologies including 3D printing, Raspberry Pi and Arduino.
  • Cheap microprocessors and radios.
  • Social media launch platforms including Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

We have seen lots of new product ideas; some look like a lot of fun but most are the modern equivalent of the cheesy gadgets sold on late night TV.

Few new things meet the test. It is still easier to keep a pen and pad around than try to use a so-called smartphone to take notes. Self-driving cars (not smart cars) meet the test, so do a lot of ideas, but most will be things that fade into obscurity.

2014-09-11 14.03.46Author: Paul Hanson

Paul is the Founder & CEO of bbotx. He has developed and marketed software products in different market segments in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East over the past 20 years – doing business and working in 40 countries. 

Header photo credit: The Breakfast Machine via photopin (license)
Dog photo credit: Copyright held by bbotx CEO Paul Hanson
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