It’s Monday morning, the alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m.because it knows you have work, so it crafts out the necessary amount of time you need to get ready and be on time. You are reluctant to get out of your warm, cozy bed, and the first thing you do is reach for your phone. With a few taps, you scheduled your coffee to start brewing so that it can be ready before you leave for work. As you crawl out of bed, the lights turn on automatically to a low-intensity level and your shower starts running at the exact temperature and pressure of your liking. The thermostat adjusts itself to a comfortable room temperature as you begin your day. “Hey Alexa, play my morning playlist on Spotify”.
As you leave the house, the lights automatically turn off, the thermostat adjusts to energy saving mode, and your (iRobot) Roomba begins its daily vacuuming routine. You start your car, and it instantly maps out the best route to get to work. From your office, you can monitor your home via your phone and get immediate notifications if there are any gas or water leakage.
This is a snippet of what living in a modern smart home feels like.
Let’s quickly differentiate between AI and IoT
Internet of Things (IoT) evolved from machine-to-machine communications, enabling an ecosystem of interrelated of physical devices, sensors, network, platform, and services to transfer data that can provide insight and drive improvements. Smart devices are objects that can enhance the interaction both people and other Smart Objects.
In smart homes, your devices communicate with each other and with you. For example, when your car arrives outside the garage, it will communicate with the garage to open the door. IoT collects terabytes of machine data, but it can’t process it. So what’s turning the gigantic amount of data into action? Artificial Intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that aims to create intelligent machines.2 Machine learning (ML) is a part of AI that “trains” machines to become more intelligent by feeding it huge amounts of data. For example, Roomba, a popular robotic vacuum cleaner, is powered by AI to scan the floorplan of different living spaces. For the first few times using Roomba in a new space, you’ll notice that it will keep bumping into walls and other objects, but it will quickly identify the obstacles in the room and remember the most efficient route for it to maneuver the space.
What’s so great about AI is that machines can then make their own decisions. In this case, after Roomba scans the size of the room, it will determine how many times it should clean it. When it’s low on battery, it will bring itself to the charging station.
AI is the brain and IoT is the body
Data is beneficial, but it’s useless if it cannot provide insight. IoT collects data based on physical interactions with the external environment. AI processes the endless amount of data streamed in from smart devices, analyze it, identify and understand the patterns, then makes an informed decision through real-time feedback so that the devices can implement quickly and efficiently.
Let’s use Nest Lab’s home automation devices as an example. You can control the Nest thermostat from your smartphone, but the device will eventually pick up your temperature preferences during different times of the day so that it can automatically self-adjust without your interaction. It will also adapt to your work schedule so that it can turn down the energy use. Nest products use sensors and algorithms to learn about you. They also communicate with each other to protect you and your home. For instance, if Nest Protect senses carbon dioxide leakage, it will signal the Nest thermostat to turn off the furnace, which may have caused the leakage, and tells the smart light bulbs to flash red lights so it can warn anyone who’s in the house.
Pros and Cons
Smart homes powered by AI and IoT are great because it makes your home life a lot easier. Systems that control the temperature, stoves, and lights in the house can cut down energy usage and your bills that come along with it. You can customize your home and have it make some smart decisions around the house for you.
Unfortunately, the convenience of having smart devices also come with great cost. Quality devices cost hundreds of dollars each, and getting them installed by a professional also comes with a fee. Some devices may not compatible if it is not bought from the same brand. For example, all Nest products are compatible with each other, but if you buy an item from another home automation brand, then it may not sync up to the same system. It is important to note that all these devices are heavily dependent on your wifi router. Their performances may lack or they may completely shut down if there is a poor connection.
The most common concerns regarding smart homes are privacy and security. Device manufacturers have access to data on homeowner’s personal living preferences and their daily routines. That same information can be accessed by hackers due to security flaws in the systems. They may breach the system and break into your house. However, as the demand for smart home devices continues to grow, companies are improving their devices to increase security and performance to build consumer trust.
A majority of the U.S, population are heavily reliant on WiFi. We are becoming more and more dependent on technology for the convenience they bring to our daily lives. It’s both creepy and cool to know that machines can now think for us and tailor our lives better than we can.