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Smart Technology: Products Are Getting Ever-Smarter

What’s in a name? A lot, if the name includes “smart.” If something is prefaced with “smart,” the implication is that it will make life better for us than its “dumb” competitors. Cases in point include smart manufacturing. Smart factories. Smartphones. Smart TVs. And smart technology, without which the previous “smart” examples wouldn’t exist.

Despite the word “smart’s” ubiquitous latter-day usage, its manner of origin in the marketing universe has probably been forgotten — or may never have been known — by many.

As a marketing term, SMART started out as an acronym for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology. But somewhere along the way “smart” lost its capitalization and acronym status, as the word’s accepted definitions of “bright” and “knowledgeable” fit perfectly with the reality of inanimate objects interacting with us and sometimes guiding our behavior.

So much for “smart.” What about smart technology? Its meaning can be difficult to nail down. In one definition, it goes beyond sending and receiving messages, searching for information, and turning things on and off. Instead, it offers consumers much more interaction and control through the Internet.[1]

Does that mean it would be correct to define smart tech as connectivity with the Internet? As artificial intelligence? As application-driven? As having a built-in capacity to learn from the environment? It may be that it is a combination of all those things.[2]

Smart technology can also be thought about in terms of devices, such as those defined by Yogesh Malik on

  • Smart devices, which have some level of automation and can be programmed for a specific use — for example, a smart coffeemaker that you can program to make coffee at a certain time.
  • Connected devices, which are remotely controlled and monitored via a mobile app with Bluetooth, LTE, Wi-Fi, wired or other means of connectivity. Examples include a smart bulb, smart security camera and smart refrigerator — one that can notify you via your smartphone when you’re out of milk.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which create more value than smart or connected devices because they are more scalable, upgradable, automated and future-ready. IoT devices are creating smart cities, smart factories and smart homes.[3]

While there are differing definitions of smart tech, one thing about it is certain: It will continue to evolve. According to various reports, we are already talking about Industry 5.0, which will mark the return of the human touch and the human-machine interface (HMI). If Industry 4.0 is about machine and system interconnectivity, Industry 5.0 will be about the blending of human and machine roles, making them mutually reinforcing and complementary. In this scenario, collaborative robots (so-called “cobots”) will work together with their human counterparts, combining their strengths.[4]

You can get an in-person view of how smart technology is evolving at Smart Manufacturing Experience 2020, June 2-4 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

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[1] “What Is Smart Technology?” Kathy Anderson,
[3] “Smart, Connected and IoT-Based Devices: What’s the Difference?” Yogesh Malik,, Nov. 5, 2017,
[4] “How Smart Technology Is Transforming the Industrial World,” guest blogger, Schneider Electric, April 11, 2019,