What actually is “smart”?

I’ve become a bit of a home automation addict.  It started with an Amazon Dot and things like “Alexa. Tell us a joke” but the novelty soon wears off.  Then you get a socket that you can control.  Then in the blink of an eye you have over 50 devices including heating, bulbs, sockets and sensors.  Most of the house is covered by Alexa devices and I’ve even got an Echo Dot in the car that I use for streaming music and Audible books.

The issue for these companies, I think, is that they’re not holding onto their “smartness”.  Even a year ago, being able to control your lights using your voice was a smart thing.  But is it now?  A light switch is an interface.  You interact with it and it does something.  Alexa is the same.  You say a trigger word or words and something happens.  I’m finding that the smarter my house gets, the less I use Alexa.

Truly smart technology is invisible and can adapt.  I have light sensors in the house.  When the light level drops to a certain value, lamps and lights switch on.  It’s not on a timer, it adapts to what’s happening around it.  I don’t have to interact with it.  It just happens.  Lights downstairs come on at 10% brightness so that there’s some ambient light.  You’re never walking into a pitch black room.  But there are also motion sensors.  So if I walk from the lounge into the hall, the hall lamp comes up to 30%.  If I go into the kitchen, the LED strips come up to 50% and the other lamps to 30%.  If no movement is detected for 15 minutes then everything goes back to 10%.  Once I go to bed, certain sensors become inactive – I don’t want the bedroom lights coming on when I turn over, for example.  The behaviour of the ones downstairs changes so only the LED strips in the kitchen come on, and at 20%.  Enough to make a drink, but not so you’re blinking into the light.  And they turn off after 15 minutes of no movement rather than just dimming.