Five Everyday Objects That Are Now Smarter Than You

Whenever I think about “smart homes” or “smart” appliances my mind always wanders back to a classic episode of The Twilight Zone called “A Thing About Machines.” In the episode, a man abuses the various appliances and devices around his house (lesson No. 1: don’t abuse your appliances), they revolt by attacking him, and eventually murder him. Take that, human!


Image: Clock, typewriter, electric razor. Machines or monsters? (screenshot from YouTube)

I’m not saying home electronics are threatening in any way (if you don’t count blood spilled opening the packaging), but I do think it’s smart to keep up with our appliances. Especially now that the Internet of Things (IoT) is quietly finding its way into household items. Everyday objects are getting smarter – maybe even smarter than all of us.

[Learn more about where we’re going with this Internet of Things thing in the new series of free courses from PTC and Udemy.]

Take these five examples:

Your alarm clock

Being a digital alarm clock is just one of the many features of a newer product on the market that also lets users connect and control their favorite smart devices and services with voice command. Though it looks like an alarm clock, the technology lets users set reminders, wake you up on time (well, that’s good), and can fetch live Internet content like the weather, stocks, and news with a voice command.

What it can do that you can’t: Can actually use a thermostat and set the correct temperature.

Your toothbrush

Do we really need more technology and engineering in our toothbrushes? If you’re brushing the wrong way, your dentist will always enthusiastically let you know. However, we found a “connected” toothbrush with sensors that allow users to see their brushing habits displayed on a mobile device. This smart data is said to improve habits over time and lead to a transformation in dental care.

What it can do that you can’t: Collect data on your mad brushing skillz.

Your cup

Need to know how many cups of water you drink each day? You’re in luck! A new kind of cup in the development stages promises to let users hydrate intelligently. How smart is this cup? It knows what you’re drinking and can estimate your unique hydration requirements. It then adjusts them based on your activities, among other cool features.

What it can do that you can’t: Remember how many pints you quaffed at the local pub.

Here’s what the designer and engineer have to say:

Your doorbell

If a doorbell rings and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? One of life’s mysteries might be solved with this new technology. Built-in sensors will detect any activity on a user’s property and trigger instant mobile alerts. Users can also see and speak with anyone at their front door via their phones using video technology.

What it can do that you can’t: Answer the door in underwear.

Image: PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann describes the Doorbot, smart doorbell.

Your pet bowl

Remember that one time in college when you went out of town and forgot to feed the cat? If you’re worried about it happening again, you might be interested in new technology that automatically feeds your pets. Using your mobile device, you can manage feeding times, portion sizes based on your pet’s age, weight, and level of activity. You can even order more food delivered to your doorstep. It also offers food suggestions or compatible foods based on data you input.

What it can do that you can’t: Keep your pets fed and alive when you’re not around.

The takeaway? The Twilight Zone was fiction. Nonetheless, be kind to your devices and they’ll be kind to you.

[Ed. Learn more about where we’re going with this Internet of Things thing in the new series of courses from PTC and Udemy. Courses are free, online, and available on demand. Watch one presentation or watch them all.]

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