What makes a smart device smart?

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With so much marketing jargon and misleading marketing, it sometimes becomes difficult to tell what is a smart device and what is not.

Some products will advertise smart capabilities, when in reality they only have a few smart features.

So what exactly makes a smart device smart? Here’s a look at what a smart device really means, what doesn’t count as a smart device, and some of the most common smart devices we use in our daily lives…

Smart Device Definition: What exactly is a smart device?


google speaker for smart device
Image credit: BENCE BOROS/Unsplash

A smart device is a device that connects to an application, the Internet, a local network or another device using a wireless connection. The wireless connection can vary, with some of the most common protocols you’ll encounter being Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth connections.

These electronics can range from high-tech communication devices (like your smartphone) to simpler gadgets like smart plugs and smart light bulbs.

In fact, many traditional devices have smart versions where the main differentiator is the ability to control it over a local network connection using an app on your smartphone. Think smart kettles, smart washing machines and smart thermostats.

The easiest way to put it would be to call smart devices those that can connect to and be controlled from other wireless devices and platforms.

What doesn’t count as a smart device?

So what are some devices that can be marketed as smart but don’t really matter?

These include simple devices that are updated with new technology that doesn’t actually enable connectivity. For example, an LCD screen doesn’t make a smartwatch – it’s only a smartwatch if you can connect it to a phone or wireless online service.

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Likewise, just because an analog device or gadget has been made electronic doesn’t mean it’s suddenly smart.

Can smart devices work without internet?


iphone control center showing airplane mode, cellular data, wifi and bluetooth icons

Another way to think of smart devices is to think of them as devices that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT). However, IoT is a broader category of technology.

Also, smart devices don’t always need an internet connection to work. The need for an internet connection will depend on the exact device and how it works with the apps and other devices it connects to.

For example, you will need an internet connection to download a third-party app. But smart devices that connect via Bluetooth are able to communicate and transmit data without the need for an internet connection. For example, smart scales often simply connect to the appropriate app on your phone. Meanwhile, the smart headphones can connect to your phone’s built-in software.

You can also create personal networks with wireless protocols like Zigbee to connect smart home devices.

Read more: What is a Smart Home Protocol?

However, you have to assume that to get the most out of a smart device, you will need an internet connection. Even if the device uses a Bluetooth connection, the app it connects to may store its data in the cloud or require updates on the web.

Common examples of smart devices

If you want even more clarity on smart devices, here’s a look at some of the most common smart devices you’ll find around the home.

When it comes to home entertainment, popular devices are smart TVs, smart speakers, and smart projectors.

For home security, there are a variety of devices that consumers use. These include smart doorbells, smart cameras, smart locks and smart alarms.

Related: Essential Smart Home Products Every Home Needs

Smart lighting gives users control and automation options for the light bulbs in their home. Then there are smart thermostats, smart blinds, and smart home hubs.

In terms of wearables, you get smartwatches, smart wristbands, smart glasses, smart headphones, and even smart shoes.

Innovation in this area continues, as new technologies are released to consumers over time. It all depends on the level of automation and connectivity you want in your life.

Know your smart devices

Now that you know the basics of what a smart device is and its defining characteristics, you need to dig deeper into the etiquette to find smart devices that work for you.

After all, connectivity is only useful if it adds value to the device rather than just adding padding to the price.


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