In the land rush to digitize the world, the home is the new frontier. Over the past few years, practically every household item within reach has been technologically upgraded and rendered “smart”: toothbrushes, cutlery, baby monitors, refrigerators, thermostats, slow cookers, sprinkler systems, sex toys, even the locks in doors. Before they achieved enlightenment, they could perform only their rote, mechanical duties; now they can do so while connected to the internet. In the case of the telephone, this has been nothing short of revolutionary, but no other “smart” object has managed to replicate its success. The absurdity of the phenomenon was made unavoidably apparent in May, when a start-up unveiled a “smart tampon,” called my.Flow. If women wear the my.Flow and the sensor that attaches to the tampon by a string (and clips neatly onto your waistband) and use the my.Flow app, they could now, at last, track their periods’ duration and flow.
“Smart” has been slapped onto everything from cups (that analyze what you’re drinking) to surfboards (that let you check your text messages between waves) to clothing (that tracks calorie expenditure). The word is flattering to both the objects and their users, even as it threatens to become a hazy banality.
Jacob Silverman, “All Knowing”, The New York Times Magazine (19 June 2016), 13-14.