Over the past few years the emergence of a new prefix in technology has appeared. First there were ‘smart’ phones, now they’ve been joined by ‘smart’ TVs and ‘smart’ cameras. These two latest inventions have been huge talking points at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. So what makes a device ‘smart’ and why do we love them so much?
The first manufacturer to coin the term ‘smartphone’ was Ericsson 1997 with their GS88 concept phone (which never made it to production). The early understanding of a smartphone was a phone that incorporated a PDA. This has since grown to include a camera (or two for video calls), the internet browsers, email and GPS.
The most popular smartphones in the mid 2000’s were generally a combination of a mobile and a PDA, some with camera and limited web connectivity.
However, this all changed with the arrival of the iPhone in 2007. What was first seen as too expensive for a mobile has since become the template for all modern mobile devices.
Thanks to Apple, almost all current smartphones now have a mobile operating system (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile etc.) which allows users to download and use Apps.
These apps can be for almost any function. Take arty photos, leave yourself reminders, play games, use social networks and much more all through downloadable apps and have turned mobile phones into incredibly intelligent pieces of kit in your pocket.
The use of an operating system that allows apps seems to become the main signal that a device is ‘smart’, as seen by the introduction of ‘smart’ TVs at this year’s CES…
Smart TVs have actually been around as long as smartphones, with the first patent filed in the 90s and the acceptance that any ‘intelligent’ TV – one that talked to you, recorded TV or had functions other than just receiving and showing TV signal. However, manufacturers at CES have used the ‘smart’ label for a range of TVs that do a lot more than just show your favourite programs.
Many TVs that go on sale this year will allow you to surf the web, download apps, play games, view on-demand video (such as iPlayer, ITV Player and Netflix) and also use both voice and motion control. It is estimated that as many as three-quarters of TV sets sold this year will have internet connectivity, although it is yet to be seen how many people will actually use this.
Mobile operating systems may be the next big thing for TV as both Google and Apple look to bring their popular technology to your big screen.
Polaroid came out of nowhere at CES to announce the first ‘Smart camera’, the snappily named ‘Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera By Android’ will combine the full functionality of Android and its App Market onto a 3.2 inch touch screen on the back of a 16 megapixel camera.
This is the first attempt to stop the trend of ditching compact digital cameras in favor of smartphone cameras and it will be interesting to see how it sells and whether this will be the future for photography.
This is a camera version of the iPod Touch – which is really just an iPhone that doesn’t make calls. Will people buy this camera because it makes a camera more interactive or because it will allow people to combine Android’s great photography apps with a decent camera and lens?
What is next for ‘smart’?
If Polaroid’s smart camera is a success it will surely herald a new era of smart devices. Already kitchen appliances are coming with touchscreens and built in applications but it can’t be long until you can download apps to your toaster for different settings. Just think about how you can now buy a fridge tells you if your food is going off!