Why our house is intelligent but not a ‘smart home’

We are not against technology in any way. Our house uses some of the latest advances in wood building technology. We will be using solar panels and the most recent developments in energy storage. We have wireless Internet – that’s how you’re reading this post. But there’s one kind of technology we will not be using: connected ‘smart home’ technology and anything to do with the ‘Internet of Things’.

There are very good reasons for this. Professionally, I work on issues of surveillance and security and it’s clear to me that connecting consumer items and homes has little to do with any benefit to users, and far more to do with infiltrating surveillance devices into more and more aspects of lives to generate data not for our benefit but data that can be packaged and sold in order to market more stuff to us. If you examine the claims made about smart devices, there are usually no coherent justifications, and at the same time each device creates a privacy and security vulnerability. At most there is a tiny element of ‘convenience.’ But that’s it. No one actually needs their refrigerator or your coffee maker to communicate via the Internet. It makes little sense to have your garage or front door lock connected and accessible via a smart phone.

So, our house is certainly intelligent in the sense that a lot of thought has gone into it, and it works, it does what it was intended to do. However, it is not and never will be a ‘smart home.’

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2 thoughts on “Why our house is intelligent but not a ‘smart home’

  1. Peter

    Excellent David.

    Thought you might get a kick out of the sense and meaning we can dig up from on the terms “smart” and “intelligent” by looking into their etymology. The exceptional Etymlonine.com is always there to help.

    First the adjective and then the older verb…

    smart (adj.)
    late Old English smeart “painful, severe, stinging; causing a sharp pain,” related to smeortan (see smart (v.)). Meaning “executed with force and vigor” is from c. 1300. Meaning “quick, active, clever” is attested from c. 1300, from the notion of “cutting” wit, words, etc., or else “keen in bargaining.” Meaning “trim in attire” first attested 1718, “ascending from the kitchen to the drawing-room c. 1880” [Weekley]. For sense evolution, compare sharp (adj.).

    In reference to devices, the sense of “behaving as though guided by intelligence” (as in smart bomb) first attested 1972. Smarts “good sense, intelligence,” is first recorded 1968 (Middle English had ingeny “intellectual capacity, cleverness” (early 15c.)). Smart cookie is from 1948.

    smart (v.)
    Old English smeortan “be painful,” from Proto-Germanic *smarta- (source also of Middle Dutch smerten, Dutch smarten, Old High German smerzan, German schmerzen “to pain,” originally “to bite”), from PIE *smerd- “pain,” an extension of the root *mer- (2) “to rub; to harm” (source also of Greek smerdnos “terrible, dreadful,” Sanskrit mardayati “grinds, rubs, crushes,” Latin mordere “to bite”). Related: Smarted; smarting.

    Hmm… Not so interested in a “smart home” based on that painful sense and meaning.

    Let’s look at “intelligence”
    intelligence (n.)
    late 14c., “the highest faculty of the mind, capacity for comprehending general truths;” c. 1400, “faculty of understanding, comprehension,” from Old French intelligence (12c.) and directly from Latin intelligentia, intellegentia “understanding, knowledge, power of discerning; art, skill, taste,” from intelligentem (nominative intelligens) “discerning, appreciative,” present participle of intelligere “to understand, comprehend, come to know,” from assimilated form of inter “between” (see inter-) + legere “choose, pick out, read” (see lecture (n.)).

    Meaning “superior understanding, sagacity, quality of being intelligent” is from early 15c. Sense of “information received or imparted, news” first recorded mid-15c., especially “secret information from spies” (1580s). Meaning “a being endowed with understanding or intelligence” is late 14c. Intelligence quotient first recorded 1921 (see I.Q.).

    I think I’ll stick with trying to be intelligent with how I use my devices. I love Doug’s comment on the reference to devices as “behaving as though guided by intelligence”. Perfect.

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