Be smart this holiday season

As we welcome a new decade … wait, does the new decade start on Jan. 1 of 2020 or 2021? I felt dumb “googling” this but it turns out two smart groups of people couldn’t agree; in other words it was clear as mud. At least I have an excuse to party! Speaking of dumb and smart ... 

As technology continues to permeate into every nook and cranny of our lives, the possibilities are high that you’ll gift yourself, or others, a device with the prefix “smart.” Smart TV, Smartwatch, Smart Lightbulb, and Smart Thermostat are all too common as we bid farewell to 2019. On the same token, people may call you a grinch if you gift ‘em “dumb” electronics such as a Dumb TV – I doubt you can find one outside eBay or Craigslist!

Whether on its own or connecting through another device using “bluetooth”wireless technology that pairs, i.e. connects, two devices, the “smart” prefix simply means that it connects to the internet, aka the cloud. Once connected, these smart devices can stream programming or receive commands to do something.

Coming home from a New Year's Eve party on a typical -5 degree CLE winter night, you may use an “app” on your smartphone to increase the temperature setting of the smart thermostat in your home and also turn on the front porch light (equipped with a smart lightbulb) so your home is toasty and welcoming upon your return.

With many municipalities introducing ordinances that makes texting while driving a moving violation, you’ll be able to make or receive calls without drawing the attention of the men in blue if your smartphone is connected to your car via aforementioned bluetooth technology. Natively or through an app, smartphones can read incoming texts and send texts through voice commands rather than typing.

Here are a couple of tips that may minimize the risks associated with any “smart” device. First, be cognizant that “smart” devices are collecting information like your usage habits. While configuring a smart device initially, if it affords you the option to not collect information, select that instead of agreeing to help them by providing information. (They may not give you such a choice to opt-out.) Second, many “smart” devices still come with default passwords that anyone, including the nefarious, can get hold of by simply by searching the internet. Hence, it would be wise to change the default password. Consult the support pages of the manufacturer’s website for instructions.

As you spend time with family and friends this holiday season, cherish those moments where emotional intimacy, or connectedness, will be the greatest as “no person is an island” (borrowing a line from poet John Donne but making it politically correct for the current times). While at the table, put away your electronic devices and enjoy the company. If various obstacles prevent you from being together, digital world tools such as Duo or FaceTime can help. We don’t want anyone to succumb to loneliness or social isolation – holiday season or otherwise!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with almost 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

Read More on The Digital World
Volume 11, Issue 24, Posted 10:08 AM, 12.17.2019