What Does ‘Smart’ Really Mean?

Author: Tony O'Brien


Almost everything in our world today has become ‘Smart’. Smart cities, Smart homes, Smart TVs…the list is endless. ‘Smart’ has become a ubiquitous term, one used to described the ever increasing number of connected technologies that improve our lives. However, since almost everything today is connected, it is a term that is losing currency.

The Gartner definition of ‘Smart’ is applicable when a machine has the capability of learning; of adapting automatically and modifying behaviour to fit the environment. This definition takes ‘Smart’ far beyond just being connected to the internet.

But are the devices, machines and concepts we believe to be ‘Smart, truly ‘Smart’?

Consumers now enjoy a plethora of Smart home technologies. We have the ability to remotely monitor our homes, controlling doors, lighting and heating from a mobile app, and Smart TVs provide more enhanced options for on-demand content and easier integration of apps and other features.

These two examples both enable the user to make better, or maybe ‘smarter’ decisions. So can this be applied in our B2B technology world? We think so.

At Panasonic, we’ve shifted our thinking to position ‘Smart’ as ‘when our customer’s customer connects with the technology and gives them personal decision-making abilities; putting them in ultimate control of their experience.’

For example, in a retail environment, smart could be a LinkRay-enabled display in the shop window. Utilising the LinkRay app, shoppers can download information on an outfit shown on that screen or even download offers direct to their smartphone, encouraging them to buy immediately.

Now add age and gender recognition technology, the content on the screen can be tailored to the individual – aftershave for men, perfume for women – different brands depending on age. It means that even when a store is closed, we can provide our customer’s customer with information to make informed choices, so that window shoppers become e-commerce opportunities out of opening hours.

As an industry, I think that a number of the technologies we have developed don’t quite meet this test of ‘smart’. Reducing cost, yes, reducing risk, yes, and even though our customers see significant benefits, we perhaps are not achieving the same level of connectivity with the customer’s customer, that would make solutions truly ‘smart’.

After all, many of our customers have customer experience at the heart of their business goals, none more so than train operating companies. An example is the numerous passenger information systems on UK railways – providing useful information, but invariably only about that single journey. To be truly smart, consumers could receive real-time information not only about that journey, but about their associated journey too and be able to access that information in a personalised way on their chosen smart device.  

The B2B world is no less hungry for smart than in B2C.  It is no longer good enough to simply address technological problems and provide products that ‘might’ meet a need.

When you redefine ‘Smart’ in this way, you can see that independent, often isolated technologies are unable to meet these requirements.  ‘Smart’ can only truly be ‘Smart’ if the technology is harmonised and integrated across and throughout the customer journey. This is where the real value in these technologies exists for businesses.

At Panasonic, we are working in close collaboration with our clients to re-define ‘Smart’ and ultimately create the next generation of bespoke business solutions which will add true, tangible value to their customers.

These improvements and putting the customer’s customer in the driving seat to be in control of their experience are what should form the basis of ‘Smart’ technologies today. We believe that this approach will inspire integration and innovation moving forwards.


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