A recent trend is to label things as “smart” when they have any programmable electronics. It started with smartphones, now there are smart houses, smart light bulbs, and smart glasses. And intelligent detergents, but that’s another story.

The word “smart” often covers that the particular thing can be controlled remotely or has some sensors that you can check even from your phone. The smart light bulb in particular can be switched on and off. The same as a normal one, but you can do it from far away too.

As I see, most of it is marketing. The promise of an internet connected house with all the smart things is appealing, but it’s unlikely someone would need one desperately. At it’s current state it is more a technology preview than a commodity. You need to buy many things and integrate them to a complex system, just so that you can buy them again when some of them obsoletes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to experiment with these kind of things. Also there are special cases, like hotels and big office blocks that greatly benefit from being “smart”, but most people’s homes are not. The “smart” things are incompatible with each other, obsolete every few years, and they are seriously overpriced. They suffer from the same problems as the current smartphones - you don’t really control what’s inside your phone; you choose a platform and hope that the manufacturer takes care of security and updates. If not, you are out of luck and need to buy a new one. Also if you’d like that new piece of hardware you need to buy a whole phone for it.

It’s appealing to have an automatically controlled heating installed, but you are likely to pay much more for it than what you save in the long run. For security systems, installing off the shelf products are likely to make you more vulnerable to a capable adversary. These systems are good if you know their every aspect; but once you just “trust” someone else on it, you only buy the sense of security. These things should be taken seriously.

Making things “smart” is the latest fad. I like to experiment with it, and to think about all the possibilities, but unlikely to invest in it heavily.