How smart are smart systems?
A view from Sue Unerman

How smart are smart systems?

Walking down one of Hampstead's bijou roads recently, I noticed a woman leaning out of an upstairs window explaining to a man at the door that her "smart" lock had locked her inside and asking him to try different ways to open the door.

If MediaCom's strategy director, Mark Cochrane, is right, we can expect much more of this in our homes. A secret tech geek, Mark delivered the "what's next" presentation at our joint conference with Channel 4 this month, "Make our house your home".

Mark revealed smart locks, lighting, alarms, coffee-makers, blinds and, of course, cars and fridges all currently on the market (though clearly not mass market yet). You could see the audience taking notes. Mind you, during the past 24 months, I've had more power cuts than in the past 24 years; but I'm sure it'll all be fine when everything is hooked up and the power fails.

In other highlights, Channel 4's research head, Neil Taylor, talked us through the new consumer decision-making process. He warned that the consumer purchase "funnel" is now leaking all over the place and overflowing with unnecessary information and too many choices.

MediaCom's planning head, Steve Gladdis, and the strategist Lindsey Jordan explained approaches to counter this for brands, including making stuff simple through bite-sized chunks of information and the use of celebrity experts, which Channel 4’s Danny Peace illustrated with case studies.

Speaking of experts, the glorious Sarah Beeny was interviewed by Damon "Move Over, Chatty Man" Lafford. Her top prediction? Wall carpets to counter bad acoustics caused by open plan and wooden floors. Neil had already told us that consumers would like robot vacuum cleaners; surely the launch of wall-crawling Roombas can't be far away?

I too will give some of the smart devices a go. It strikes me, though, that very little of most offices is that smart. Have you been in the slightly smarter lifts at Central Saint Giles? I think they lack charm. When I'm working late and concentrating hard at Theobald's Road, the lights go off because I'm not moving about enough. Most new systems seemed designed to outsource effort from central teams that were originally designed to take unproductive tasks away from employees. You can see the sell – smaller central admin teams – but the individual user might have to jump through more hoops.

Am I being unfair? Are there "smart systems" out there in the workplace that are increasing individual productivity?

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom