What are the recent developments in SmartHome Technology?

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We have been hearing about advancements in the Internet of Things(IoT) space, leading to Smart homes for a couple of years now.

But, why aren’t we all already living in Smart homes? Simply because the current IoT space is too fragmented.

The market as it is in majority flooded by big brand devices of the like of Nest thermostat, August Smart door lock or even voice assistants that do not necessarily speak with each other. The latest evolution in smart home devices by tech giants like Google(Google Home) and Amazon(Echo) have to an extent connected these devices for a control of our homes through voice.

This is in itself a step forward into making Smart homes a reality and an acknowledgement that the homes of the future are slowly taking shape.

The growth and development of Artificial Intelligence(AI) have now opened completely new avenues in the SmartHome space. Where one could automatically switch on/off or set the temperature of the air conditioner remotely, AIs will allow Smart homes to automatically set the ideal temperature based on weather forecasts. The advent of AI in home automation is fuelling the growth of the next generation Smart Homes that are truly autonomous.

Autonomous Homes

Smart home as they are currently defined, often revolve around the IoT devices, the hardware installed in the home. The truth is that what truly makes a home “Smart” comes from the software end and not the hardware. Imagine a home that welcomes you after a tiring day of work by setting the environment at perfect mood(lighting & music) as you step in the door, a trigger that turns on your A/C based on your location, or detecting that your temperature is slightly too cold for your child at night and automatically corrects it to prevent your toddler from becoming sick, or even to the extent of detecting if milk and eggs are over in your refrigerator and place an order for a refill.

Our home will proactively be able to help us manage the mundane responsibilities of homeownership and daily tasks, learn out of our needs and habits and independently provide us security and comfort.

How far are we from a “True Smart Home”?

Surprisingly Peter Diamandis in an article published in 2015 believed that such “assistance” is likely to emerge within the next decade. We have already seen such attempt by Mark Zuckerberg (link to his endeavour in such challenge).

The reality is, however, still very dull. Many of the current software that are being created have yet to be on par with the smart Buttler in Iron Man named: “J.A.R.V.I.S.”

Though there are tons of research going on in the AI and IoT sector some of the more prominent ones are:

  1. Grid+ is a utility provider that exposes its customers to wholesale electricity prices. By opening economic markets, which are historically locked, Grid+ incentivizes customers to purchase solar panels and batteries. This moves electricity generation from upstream generators to distributed generation sources. Using Grid+ will allows home users to not only procure cheaper electricity but also monetize on the extra electricity being produced through solar panels at home.
  2. IOTA is a platform that allows interoperability and sharing of resources between any IoT devices. It will be a platform that allows devices from multiple companies to communicate and operate in a single environment. IOTA is one of the companies that will enable the congregation of the fragmented Smart home industry.
  3. Homi Data-marketplace will enable homeowners to monetize their energy consumption data which will enable energy utility companies to provide cheap and efficient electricity.
  4. Homi On-demand marketplace will transform the SmartHome into a true butler giving it capabilities to order food, order groceries, book a cab, and also call emergency medical services.

What are the current hurdles to accessing an A.I capable smart Home?

There are currently a few blockers that are impeding the ability for A.I to truly embrace the potential it has. Here are a few of them:

  1. Most Device and Software maker create incompatibility between devices.

The reality is that other than Google and Amazon, who have to be frank, only integrated with “chosen” devices, most of the Smart home makes create hardware that centralised around one hub, with many of them, only working with certain devices, leading consumers to be confused about what works with what.

To quote Stacey Higginbotham, in her Fortune article, “In an ideal world every new device a consumer brings into the home should be able to simply work with the central hub device or software and start sharing data with it.”

2.  Artificial intelligence still lack context

In order for an A.I to be autonomous, it needs to be provided with the right input of information to understand what a particular situation represents and the needed output for it.  In order for such a feat to happen, the A.I needs to be able to understand where the people are in the house, who these people unequally are, and what they are currently doing.

Artificial intelligence still lacks the proper data to formulate its understanding of people’s need and behaviours. While homes tend to change relatively fast so do behaviours as kids grow up to teenagers. Learning for A.Is takes time and data, and to suddenly change its previous understanding is yet another problem.

While Smart Homes and Artificial intelligence proposes an enhanced way of living, it may take a few years before we can truly appreciate the extent of having a virtual Buttler waking us up and making our coffee in the morning. The developments made in the space are tremendous and will eventually catch up with what we used to call Science Fiction.

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