Artificial intelligence has been very much on trend this year. In fact, Google recorded an increase in searches for the term ‘artificial intelligence’ of more than 300% between January and May.
You would be forgiven for thinking that AI was a new invention, but it has been looking after the homes of Baker Stone customers and other smart home owners for years. So what does it do, what benefits does it provide and how will it develop in the future?
Artificial intelligence puts the smart in smart homes. It helps the machines it controls to take jobs off our hands, make our lives more convenient and make us happier by providing new experiences personalised to our wants and needs.
If you have a smart speaker, such as an Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, you will be familiar with some of the abilities of modern AI in the home, especially if you have some of your home devices connected to it. If you don’t have some of your devices connected to your smart speaker, we’d strongly advice it as it can make your life many times easier.
As artificial intelligence develops, it will help smart homes and smart devices become a more natural and useful part of their owners’ lives. They will take jobs off your hands and respond to your wants and needs until they begin to feel less like a few bits of clever technology and more like one friendly assistant that knows you inside out.
Specifically, they will improve lives by:
- Automating more and more jobs
- Improving household security
- Keeping our families effortlessly safe and healthy
- Preventing and resolving our mistakes
- Making all our tech work seamlessly in unity for us
- Knowing what we need.
- Moving AI computing into our homes for better functionality and security.
Let’s dig into these exciting developments a little.
Developing in-home artificial intelligence and automation
The history of in-home AI goes way back before the advent of the first piece of smart tech or automated gadgetry (remember the Teasmade?) – Right back to the industrial revolution, in fact.
Basic automation – Washing and sewing machines
One of the biggest leaps forward that defined the early industrial era was basic automation. For the first time, instead of doing a task manually, we could press a switch and a machine would do it for us (excepting some water clocks and the Antikythera mechanism). Basic, repetitive tasks like weaving wool or mass-printing could be automated. By the late Victorian era, this automation had made it into our homes in the form of washing and sewing machines that made life much more convenient and enjoyable for the population. From here, the story became one of ascending levels of control and automation.
Second-level automation – Scanners, timers and thermostats
It didn’t take long for innovators to realise how much more useful an item like a washing machine or water heater would be with a simple control device like a thermostat or timer. This saved us the trouble of figuring out how long our washing took to clean or exactly how hot the boiler needed to be.
Third-level automation – Electronics and computing.
The chances are that many of the items in your home are automated up to the third level of control. So, they consist of a machine that does an action (a boiler), a scanner (thermostat) and a control circuit or simple computer (the panel on the front where you change the temperature, timings and holiday settings). This needs computing or advanced electronics because it’s combining a number of control systems to achieve an outcome based on a certain number of variables. Machines of this type began to be seen in the 1970s and really took off in the 80s.
Fourth-level automation – Finally, artificial intelligence!
Over the last decade, we have begun to see appliances with computing systems that can intelligently change the way they operate based on complex external factors. This allows them to adapt to expected or unexpected changes in the environment, including the most complex of external factors, us.
This process has helped us to go from doing everything ourselves to setting everything ourselves to having everything managed for us. It’s still early days for smart homes, but we’re seeing them make life a lot easier very quickly.
Automatic for the people
First and foremost, artificially intelligent smart homes improve the lives of their owners by learning the patterns they follow and conveniently managing tech around them. In this way, they can reduce work and create unprecedented experiences. Intelligent reaction to the environment can also keep families and their homes safe by preventing and responding to developing threats, from fires to burglaries.
Hasta la vista, burglar
Automatic intelligence doesn’t make machines great at keeping our homes secure, because machines were already great at that. What it does is removes the weakest link from much of the process – us humans.
As we mentioned in this article on smart security, ‘The flaw in most computer systems is the big, fleshy lump of meat sat in front of them.’ – We have short attention spans, we’re easily distracted and, ooh a bird …
While most of us are bad at handling security on our own, we make a great team together with AI, mutually reinforcing each other’s weaknesses. Machines never sleep. That means AI can keep watch on your home all the time and process what they see at a simple level (compared to us) with close to 100% accuracy.
They can’t however process nuanced, subjective or unexpected information well or make sense of what they see. That’s where we come in and that’s why most smart security systems will alert you to most perceived threats before responding, whether they consist of a burglar or your pet dog. As artificial intelligence develops though, it is constantly reducing the likelihood of false alarms, as well as increasing its ability to identify actual threats on its own. It’s incontrovertible that current AI is capable of making our homes many times safer.
Keeping our families safe
As well as burglars, artificial intelligence is developing the ability to spot a wide range of threats and emergencies as they develop. This means it can keep us and our families safer from everything from fires to broken glass. AI also helps our homes and the techs in them to respond to the threats in more and more useful ways. For example, in the past safety systems such as fire alarms simply sounded an alarm and left us to deal with it. Now, depending on the nature of the fire, artificially intelligent systems can sound an alarm, alert us and the emergency services, shut off gas and air conditioning systems and even put out the fire with local sprinkler and firefighting systems.
Artificially intelligent, naturally sustainable
A well-designed and managed smart home can save up to 40% of its energy usage. This is because artificially intelligent smart home systems can change their settings to optimise your energy usage, reducing your bills and your negative effect on the environment. Some smart technologies naturally use less energy as well.
A smart heating system might recognise for example that you rarely go in your conservatory during the working week in winter. In response it can leave the heating on low or off completely in that particular room, instead of turning it up with all the other rooms. As a smart home learns your living habits, it can control every room in this way, saving energy while ensuring that you’re never uncomfortable in a cold room.
Meanwhile, a smart lighting system can be programmed to tell you when you have gone out and left a light or appliance on.
As smart heating systems develop with more sensors and atmosphere modelling abilities, they are predicted to begin to control the heating of our rooms on a micro level. This means turning heaters in different places on and off, or changing air conditioning settings to ensure the area around us stays at a reasonable temperature while using a minimal amount of energy.
Your last mistake
Have you ever had that ‘oh god’ moment when you realise you’ve forgotten something important at home. Maybe you’ve left your keys on the side or forgotten to turn the oven off. These kinds of mistakes are just some of the things that AI is increasingly putting an end to, preventing everything from minor irritations to burned down houses and lost jobs. Many smart appliances or the systems that run them can already be programmed to let you know when you’ve left the house without shutting them down. Meanwhile, smart houses will be increasingly able to help you find lost items in the future.
More artificial intelligence = less wasting your intelligence faffing with tech
I bet we can all remember the last time we got irritated while messing about trying to get an appliance or piece of technology working. Perhaps you were trying to sort your printer or get your oven timer to work on Christmas eve – We have whiled away plenty of time doing both these things. In the future, smart home AI will increasingly make these irritations and others like them a thing of the past. Our systems can already solve many of these problems and the Chat GPT chatbot Chat GPT chatbot can already tell me how to unblock my HP DeskJet (see picture).
What’s more, some innovators, such as the Josh AI team have experimentally incorporated these intelligent chatting abilities into their virtual home assistant system, as seen on this YouTube video. The result is a virtual assistant that can talk to you with intelligence far beyond anything seen with the likes of Alexa and Siri so far. This is very much what we can expect from smart homes in the coming years, with virtual assistants able to intelligently talk to us to learn what we need and dynamically respond to our requests. Think of those computerised voices in science fiction that always seemed to do exactly what the characters wanted. This is the exciting future for smart home assistants.
Your tech working together for you
The virtual home assistant already acts as a hub for many smart homes using artificial intelligence. It is the visible and audible part of an artificially intelligent system that brings all your appliances and smart technologies together in a system that serves and adapts to your family. As AI develops, the system’s ability to unify your tech and personalise it to your needs will improve until it becomes an indispensable household assistant and, dare we say it, even a friend.
The smart home of the future will know its owners, what they like and what they need. As such, it will be able to integrate and manage any piece of smart technology to best serve them and suit them. Baker Stone already creates artificially intelligent smart homes that work effortlessly as a unit to make their owners' lives easier. Learn more here.
Imagine plugging a new TV in and it already having your favourite films and apps ready for you to use, as well as some recommendations. When your child turns it on, it could already be in safe mode with their preferred channels waiting for them until it reminds them to finish their homework. Then when your partner does, it has pulled the YouTube video they were watching from their laptop, ready to continue, brightening the screen to help with their eyesight.
Edge AI – The next big small thing
Edge AI refers to cutting edge AI systems where the gadgets themselves respond to inputs and changes, rather than relying on a central server. This will mean our smart homes can remain fully functional whether the web is up or down, and they will also be extra private and secure.
Currently, most smart home devices send their inputs back to a central server because AI requires a lot of processing power and its impossible or impractical to build this into most of our appliances. As computing develops though, we will be able to create systems where some AI decisions are made in our homes. This allows for greater security, more up time and multi-layered systems that can adapt to your needs and the needs of those around you on different levels.
This innovation will also allow the benefits of home automation to be shared with people in areas with low connectivity, such as developing countries or emergency zones. This may seem like an extravagance but imagine saving 40% of your energy in a crisis area where one is relying on generators. Think of the benefits of having intelligent security protecting aid supplies in a warzone.
You say you want AI revolution?
Well you know, we all want to change the world, and AI is almost certainly going to do it in our homes, workplaces and beyond. Artificial intelligence could extend our lifespans, ease our workloads and speed up technological advancement more than ever before.
However, there’s as much anxiety about the changes being brought about by AI as there was about the revolution in the Beatles’ immortal song. Worries range from reasonable uncertainties about lost jobs and stolen intellectual property to more wildly Hollywoodesque fears about the end of the human race.
In our homes at least, artificial intelligence seems set to change our lives very much for the better. In fact, the process has already been going on slowly for the last few years. Our smart homes are making us safer, happier, more relaxed and more productive than ever before. Now as popular culture and the markets catch up with this trend of technological development, we can look forward to the process speeding up and spreading out into more homes, faster than ever before.
If you have a smart home, you can look forward to more options being made available at a faster rate. If not, getting on the home automation bandwagon is becoming easier and more fulfilling than ever before. Why not take the opportunity to get involved now by booking an appointment with Baker Stone?