Are you using ‘Smart’ in a way I am not familiar with?

Phones are now smart apparently. This has come as quite a shock and one that I’m still trying to reconcile with my expectations. The first mobile phone patent was issued 102 years ago. To reach the dizzying heights of smartness in that time is quite good going. I can only assume that over the next century the intelligence of phones will evolve to a level where they will dispense with the need for humans and start communicating together directly (about what I shudder to think). Or maybe marketing departments should be a little more circumspect in their choice of terminology.

I have a Blackberry and I like it. Nice screen, easy email. It doesn’t get too hot either, its thermally well designed. I do sometimes catch myself eyeing up a friend’s iPhone in the same way that magpies (and sales people) are attracted by shiny things. The smart in SmartPhone I think refers to the fact that there is a complete operating system and the ability to install and run applications. Sure this provides flexibility but surely it falls short of smart-ocity(?).

If a phone were smart it would recognise the fact that it’s 5:30am, it’s moving, infer that I’m up at stupid o’clock again driving to work and with a gentle voice say that there’s a Costa Coffee 2 miles away and would I like it to plot a route for me.

If a phone were smart it wouldn’t just sit there staring blankly at me whilst I ask it to send an email to my boss telling him I’m going to be late into the office as I’m currently stuck in Costa Coffee on my 3rd caramel latte.

If a phone were smart at the end of the day it would see that there had been numerous heated emails going back and forth between me and my boss about lateness and recommend a local drinking establishment for me. At the end of the evening it would be aware that I had used the phone to pay for numerous wines and would automatically block potentially career limiting text messages being sent to my boss.

The phone would also refer to me as ‘master’ and assume a butler type approach in all its dealing with me.

A comment left on last weeks rant indicated that there is indeed a commercially available flying car now available. Now it’s available I now don’t really want one after all. I’ve checked out the Blackberry app store and with an expected sense of disappointment I haven’t found anything close to getting the phone to do the above. O well, I’m sure it will come, one day. Until that day it’s maybe best not to refer to the phones as smart; flexible sure, better than last year certainly, but pretty dumb compared to what they will become.

Dear Future, please hurry up.

28th July 2010 Nottingham


2 thoughts about “Are you using ‘Smart’ in a way I am not familiar with?
  • Phones are becoming smarter – perhaps smarter than us – as evidenced in for example the downloadable application that will read out your emails as you drive – and prevent you from typing while driving.

    The built in navigation (or for blackberries, downloadable from the app store) gives way better directions than my wife, and also when you do get lost it doesn’t agitate marital problems. That is smart.

    I think the bigger question here is why on earth you would want to drive somewhere to pick up a beverage. Why not just demand that the car brews one for you… Or perhaps somewhere in the not too distant future, your phone. Both will be running on hydrogen or other clean-burning gasses pretty soon and can produce 100% clean water vapor perfectly suitable for brewing coffee after or as you condense it. The phone perhaps just in smaller volumes.

  • Hi Robin, Maybe you need something much simpler – a phone to cover for you when you are late, allowing you to: (a) get up at a civilised time (b) avoid your boss giving you a hard time (c) reduce the (supposedly) increasingly damaging and self perpetuating effects of too much coffee and alcohol!
    Love your and John’s blogs in particular, keep up the good work.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at