‘Smart’ technology implies the ability for devices and software to take decisions on their own – to an extent. Most are pre-programmed to react a certain way in given scenarios. The most defining characteristic of ‘smart’ tech is that it learns and adapts. A ‘smart’ house is also a place where various elements of the house are imbued with smart tech and they learn and adapt to the lifestyle of the inhabitants. This might not always be obvious, but in many houses, the following ‘smart’ gadgets are already on the phone and being used unreservedly.
The gadgets can’t run without a manager and that is where companies like amazon in Hong Kong step in. They develop software with a human interface, or something that more relatable, such as a friendly puppy. Personalities like Alexa or Siri are more than just voices on our phones. Once they are upgraded and connected to the main internet network, they help manage devices by doing things like turning on the TV, calling someone and opening and closing doors. The movie Her was a wonderful example of how an AI can become almost a person in someone’s life by virtue of being ever present. Most of the mundane tasks will thus be done by the AI helper.
Already many of our electronic devices are automatic (think of an automatic washing machine for instance) but in a smart house it goes a step further. Here, when the washer has finished its cycle, you will get a text notification so that you can go and hang it out to dry. Or the efficient google WiFi in Hong Kong will play your current favourite song as you enter the house by correctly identifying your voice. Or the alarm will ring in the morning and the TV will be switched on to the news channel. Most of the devices in the house, including the refrigerator, coffee maker, oven etc. will be automated and controlled by an AI so that it will be geared to make and serve your favourites all the time, even when you haven’t expressly specified a choice.
Learning from Us
The most important feature about a smart house is that the devices are supposed to learn our patterns. For instance, temperature controllers can be programmed to record the rise and fall of temperatures throughout the day, the amount of people around the house at any given time and then build a median model on the performance of, say, a week. This allows the device to lower the air conditioning during the day when no one is home and then increase it slightly on family dinner nights, to compensate for the higher head count.
So if you are planning on investing in a smart house, always make sure that there is an AI helper, the devices are ‘smart’ too and that they are adaptable.