Artificial Intelligence Can Make the Smart Home Smarter, but Consumers May Be Wary
AI shows tremendous promise for transforming today’s residences from smart homes into so-called “genius homes.”
How smart can smart homes get? Apparently, much smarter than they are now.
Much of the increase in brainpower will come from artificial intelligence. At its core, AI occurs when technology attempts to think like a human. It attempts to sense, reason, and learn in the same way that the human mind does.
There have been literally millions of articles, blogs, and news segments about the growing use of AI and how it will impact virtually every aspect of our society.
Smart homes will not escape the AI tsunami. In fact, AI shows tremendous promise for turning residences from “smart” into “genius.”
In reality, what many homeowners – as well as consumers of smart devices – don’t realize is that AI is already incorporated into smart home technology and is being used every day. Some obvious examples include:
- Voice Assistants: AI helps Alexa interact with consumers more conversationally, using a method known as, appropriately, conversational AI.
- Smart Vacuums: Some of these little gizmos have cameras; the vacuum uses AI technology to make decisions, like where to vacuum and how often.
- Household Appliances: AI is particularly helpful in replenishing your appliances with supplies. For example, smart refrigerators can order certain foods when they detect you’re running low.
- Smart Security: AI can help security systems recognize faces. In fact, Alexa can be set to alert the homeowner when an unrecognized person walks into the house, rather than having the system tell you every time your cat walks into the living room.
- Smart Locks: Artificial intelligence has also been used to create a generation of smart locks activated through mobile devices (including many models from Kwikset).
Smart Homes Not Smart Enough – Yet
Still, the level of AI infused into these and other devices is simply not enough; far from it, says technology industry veteran Mark N. Vena.
Writing in TechNewsWorld, Vena contends that “Right now, smart homes just aren’t very smart. Even with significant advancements in communication between smart home gadgets, setting up and maintaining a smart home still requires too much manual effort. This point is especially true for homeowners who desire more sophisticated usage model capabilities, such as creating scenes with various smart home devices that perform multiple tasks simultaneously.”
He goes on to point out the potential for AI to create smarter smart homes, “even if most entry-level smart home users are thrilled with simply turning on the lights when using a smart voice assistant like Alexa.”
His point is, while current smart home devices use AI methods and techniques, the technology behind them is rudimentary. Next-level AI systems will give users the power to create more complex scenes while reducing the manual input required.
Enter Generative AI, or GenAI, which has been not so slowly taking over the world (only a slight exaggeration). Consequently, it was only a matter of time before it pushed open the door to the smart home.
Josh.ai, a home automation system for the connected home, launched JoshGPT in July to replace consumers’ smart home automation systems as an all-in-one solution – the company claims it’s got the brains that current voice assistants can’t offer.
Given its capabilities, that’s a hard statement to refute. Josh.ai is powered by the same technology that’s in OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the popular AI platform. Its allure comes from the fact that it can answer more specific questions and understand nuances that the major smart home assistants – i.e., Siri, Alexa, and Google – aren’t able to comprehend.
For example, you may ask Alexa or your favorite smart home assistant this question: “Explain how TV screens work.” But with JoshGPT, you can add variables like, “Explain how TV screens work as if I’ve never seen one before.”
According to an article in Stacey on IoT, a generative AI model that can run offline could reduce or even eliminate the need to create manual rules in the smart home. The Google Assistant driven by the company’s Gemini AI platform (scheduled for a December release) could see patterns.
Then it could execute on those patterns automatically or even prompt the user by saying something like, “I notice you often wake up, come downstairs, make coffee, and read in the mornings.” It’s then up to the user how to respond, including telling Gemini to mind its own business.
Will Matter Matter?
One of the key ingredients in the AI smart-home recipe could be Matter, the newest smart home protocol. Matter has been described as a unifying standard for smart home communication protocols, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Thread, and Z-Wave.
Through the use of Matter, data may become increasingly available, giving AI a springboard to enhance a smart home’s capabilities. What’s more, Matter’s ability to help smart devices work with each other across platforms and ecosystems and create a more seamless experience is another factor that can accelerate AI’s functionality.
One of the biggest concerns with the use of Generative AI in the smart home arena is the issue of security; given the increasing amount of personal information stored within these systems, the impact of security breaches and data hacking may be far more consequential. It’s an issue that is being taken very seriously, not just by smart device manufacturers but by developers of the AI platforms.
The concept of increasing AI functionality in smart homes is no longer a case of “if” but rather, “when.” There are a great deal of challenges that must be adequately addressed, including integration into existing smart home platforms, security risks, and even ethical implications.
One of the most critical considerations is consumer sentiment. Do most smart home users care about the promise of having increased smart home capabilities? Are they craving technology that can provide greater convenience and comfort but also opens the door to potentially serious security risks?
Perhaps most important, does the public’s lack of understanding about what AI really is, and how it functions, work against its adoption? There is a large volume of disinformation about AI floating around, causing consumers to associate AI with the Terminator movies or Big Brother.
Are these perceptions strong enough to keep AI from being welcomed into the smart home with open arms – or having the door slammed in its face?
Erik Glassen is the senior brand manager for Kwikset.
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