What makes a smart TV 'smart'?

My good friend is a geek but he doesn’t even own a smart TV, let alone a flat-screen TV, and his 12-year-old 55-inch rear projection TV doesn’t work anymore.

So the weekend after the Super Bowl we went shopping for a new TV and sure enough we were bombarded with sales pitches on smart TVs! We politely listened but my friend swiftly bee-lined to the loot that he already had his mind set on; obviously his wallet was much lighter and controlling his decision. (You can guess who ended up paying for dinner later.)

That night a light bulb in my head went off and illuminated the otherwise dark bedroom: why don’t I write about smart TV shopping in my future column? So here we are, first in the series of tips on buying different technology gadgets, where we’ll try to answer this question today: what makes a smart TV "smart"?

Over-the-air antenna, cable and satellite dish are what I consider traditional methods (i.e. from the real world) of getting TV programming into our homes. However disruptive innovation we all know of as the internet has introduced an additional method known as “streaming.”

Companies such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video bring TV programming, or more commonly referred to as “content” in the digital world, into our homes and onto our TVs. Content can be anything from TV shows, movies and even the use of social networking services – all through your smart TV. You can even see YouTube on your smart TV.

This is possible because smart TV has an electronic circuitry with computer-like or tablet-like attribute so it can connect to the internet. This ability to receive content through the internet and display on itself is what makes a smart TV “smart.”

So if you take this little computer-like or tablet-like attribute away from a smart TV, do you actually get a “dumb” TV? Does your 3-year-old flat-screen TV that displays a crisp HD or Full HD picture (i.e. 720p or 1080p respectively, please refer to my previous article for explanation on this jargon) and currently receiving TV programming through a satellite dish need to be replaced just so you can stream from Netflix and the like?

The million dollar question is whether you can make a dumb TV into a smart TV? The chances are highly likely that you can make it smarter.

But how? Instead of replacing a perfectly working flat-screen TV, as long as it has a compatible and available input connection, you can buy one of the streaming boxes like Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon’s new Fire TV that will take over the duties of receiving the streaming content from the internet and pass it on to the TV to display. Just like that you turned a dumb TV into a smart TV. Alternatively you can buy a smart DVD/Blu-ray player and achieve the same results if the aforementioned conditions were met and you needed a DVD/Blu-ray player in the first place (only it also has the “smart” attributes). Now that is a Smart Shopper!

Next issue's topic: “Going smart TV shopping”



I’m getting tired of hearing about security compromises and hacking incidents. I’m ready to throw my PC out the window and get off the internet for good.

Cutting the cord and not using the internet may not give you additional security because even if you decide not to use technology, merchants and others who keep our personally identifiable information, such as credit cards, will continue to rely on technology to maintain the vast amount of data they need to curate. Similarly the bad guys will continue to try to compromise these entities possessing valuable and profitable information. Rather you may want to learn Internet Street Smarts, i.e. build good habits while in the digital world, because the reliance on technology is not going away.

Have a question for Tak about computers, software or other technology? Send it to editor@wbvobserver.com.

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 20+ years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 6, Issue 8, Posted 10:05 AM, 04.15.2014