AI – a central driving force in the ‘Smart Home’ revolution
Home automation – or the ‘Smart Home’ – is an emerging market in the world of modern technology. The movement aims to simplify the routine aspects of home life by providing solutions for everyday tasks while minimising the need for human involvement. This article will give examples and insight into how AI is central to the innovation
Embedding AI within the Internet of Things ecosystem
The sector has grown massively in the last decade. The rise of the smartphone, together with the development of more sophisticated, ‘smart’ electronic devices has allowed regular homeowners to remotely monitor and control the state of their home (temperature, lighting, security etc.). Many recent advances have been facilitated by a phenomenon known as the ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT). Rather than operating devices manually – or juggling between different apps which each control a single application – IOT permits the emergence of the “connected home” whereby multiple devices can communicate through a home network and be operated using a single interface.
Smart speakers (e.g. Google Home) offer a pertinent example of this in action as they manage a whole eco-system of gadgets. After receiving voice commands from users, they can perform actions throughout the home – from switching on the living room TV to unlocking the front door and adjusting the thermostat. Seemingly, therefore, dreams of a future where home life can be governed by innovative tech and interconnected gadgets are coming to fruition.
However, expanding AI’s role in this home automation process would take this a step further. While AI has perforated home life to a degree (smart speakers, for example, use machine learning and neural networks to understand voice commands and compute appropriate responses), current systems remain reactive and user-driven, relying entirely on human initiative. They respond to user inputs or sensory triggers and are unable to make contextually informed decisions about how a home can best be managed. AI’s involvement will improve upon this, as it would allow a system to continually learn new information about occupants, devices and the home environment thus permitting the anticipation of users’ needs. As such, an AI-driven control system would be able to manage the ‘home network’ without the need for human input, thus freeing homeowners of burdensome chores and decisions.
The benefits of shifting to this AI-driven central system can be divided into three main categories.
1) Using AI to maximise convenience
Take a typical daily routine, for example. The central AI system can set your morning alarm at the optimum time accounting for calendar appointments, traffic on your commute, and predictions regarding your personal preparation time. Before the alarm, the AI network can turn on the heating to ensure you wake to a warm and welcoming house, and once it sounds, the AI can begin brewing your coffee so it’s ready when you get downstairs. Fast forward a few hours, and you’re on your way home from a long day at work.
The AI determines that you are approaching using GPS data and prepares the house for your arrival – turning on the heating, drawing the curtains and switching on the oven. It can then help out with the actual cooking, monitoring the internal temperature of food and turning the oven down when it reaches optimal temperature. Clearly, a central AI control system that anticipates personal requirements and makes informed decisions about the state of your home can ease daily life immeasurably.
2) Security and safety Driven
The network can be aware when you leave, know when the house is empty (e.g. by using computer vision networks to identify the presence – or absence – of humans in rooms) and lock the door behind you. The door can then be unlocked when you return using face or voice recognition and, using this technology, the AI network can understand when someone unfamiliar is outside the house and inform homeowners of the situation. In the case of fire, the occupants can be guided to safety by an AI system that knows the nearest exits, understands the layout of the house and is informed as to the location of dangerous areas that must be avoided. Again, it is evident that AI’s involvement can have significant benefits that are perhaps less obvious and not immediately apparent.
3) Improved energy efficiency
As already mentioned, smart thermostats that can be accessed remotely are appearing on the market with ever-increasing frequency. Allowing a central AI to control such devices would permit a more effective energy strategy. The AI can turn off heating when all occupants are out of the house and turn it back on upon their return. It can also be aware of occupants’ location within the house and concentrate heat in the occupied rooms and not waste energy warming an empty space. It would be able to turn off taps if it identifies that they have been left on for too long, switch off the oven or close the fridge if they seem to have been mistakenly abandoned, and turn off plugs when they are not in use. With the widespread environmental benefits and sizeable economic perks that this would provide, an AI-driven home network system has great potential.
With this in mind, AI seems likely to play a crucial part in the continued growth of the home automation sector. While we remain far away from Tony Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S or 2001’s HAL 9000 it is evident that AI will be the driving force behind the pursuit of increasingly intelligent home environments.
Tags: AI, internet of things, IOT, Machine Learning, Smart home