How AI Makes Smart Home Smarter
Artificial intelligence is evolving every day and is starting to find its way into the smart home. Specifically, AI has the potential to have a profound impact on the way we interact with our homes. Current “smart home devices” that are nothing more than connected. They still rely on the user to interact with them. With AI, we can minimize this interaction.
While there are many aspects to AI, its uses in the home automation currently are focused around:
- Voice-Based AI in Smart Speakers
- Vision-Based AI in Cameras and Sensors
Why smart home needs AI?
Currently, smart homes are controlled through a vast array of apps. Most of the technology enthusiasts are fine with this because they have the wow factor of remotely controlling their homes. However, most common people are not and this is what is limiting the smart home from going mainstream.
In my experience, however, these one-size-fits-all apps either lack polish or pigeonhole users into their entire ecosystem. To stop relying on these apps, AI must become a staple in the smart home. No one should have to change their natural human behavior or read a manual to interact with a light switch.
Voice Control – The First Step Towards the AI Smart Home
Amazon and Google introduced the average consumer to AI with the introduction of smart speakers. For the first time, users were not limited by apps to control their smart homes. Instead, they could now use their voice which comes more naturally.
Smart Speakers use voice recognition which is AI. This system is always listening and uses behind-the-scenes algorithms to take action on what it hears. Smart Speakers keep learning from themselves and are getting smarter over time. In a way, you could say that smart speakers could be credited with starting the AI revolution of the smart home.
AI Vision – The Next Frontier in Consumer AI
Traditional motion-sensing devices were triggered by any motion be it a person, animal, vehicle or just the wind. This is very flawed, and we need to move away from these types of systems.
AI vision-based cameras can do things like identifying a person and recognizing a face. These can be used to trigger home devices and services based on the presence or the absence of a person or a face. AI vision technology can even recognize certain human behaviors like Google Nest Hub’s hand gesture control.
With these benefits in mind, it should be clear to anyone that AI vision can make our homes smarter, more secure and intuitive with a hands-free control experience.
Home automation using AI Vision
You would never use motion-triggered off a tradition security camera to unlock your door. But if you were instead using an AI camera that could recognize your face, you could then use your face ID to unlock your door. This adds security but there are also use cases that add functionality.
Another common use for motion sensing is turning lights on and off when motion is detected. The problem with this, however, is that any motion will falsely trigger it, let’s say a pet walked by a sensor. Now if that sensor used AI vision, it could turn the lights on when you actually need to or going further by setting the lights to a specific brightness based on the facial recognition of the person entering the room.
Best AI Devices for Home
The Google Assistant is an AI-based platform that consists of smart speakers, smart displays and android phones. The biggest advantage Google Assistant has over the competition is that it is backed by Google. Google is the largest aggregator of user data on earth currently so they have the most information on people’s behaviors and preferences that can be used to train the AI behind these devices. Add to this the power of Google Search and you have a force to be reckoned with.
Like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa is an AI-based platform that consists of smart speakers, and smart displays. The biggest advantage the Amazon Alexa has is that Amazon is the largest online marketplace in the world and all the users of Amazon.com feed the Amazon Alexa AI every day with their searches and purchases. Amazon Alexa was also first to market-beating Google by two years. This head-start has allowed Amazon to gain a lot of market share. With more people using Alexa enabled devices, more and more data is being collected and the platform gets smarter.
Josh AI is a new player in the game of voice assistants. Marketing differently than both Google and Amazon, Josh AI aims to be a custom integrated solution for luxury homes. The advantage Josh AI has, however, is that it is more natural than both Google and Amazon. Josh AI claims to use proprietary Natural Language Processing technology which allows users to speak naturally to their homes as if they were speaking to a family member. Josh AI has integrations with some of the top players in home automation like WeMo, Ecobee, Control 4 and Sonos.
Josh AI uses far more AI than either Google or Amazon which allows it to recognize patterns and start controlling your home for you as it learns your normal activities and routines. But remember all of this comes with a cost. Again, Josh AI is marketed towards luxury homes and needs to be installed and maintained by a certified integrator.
SimCam 1S is a smart security camera that comes from the vision side of artificial intelligence. When used in conjunction with IFTTT, SimCam can be integrated with other devices like Philips Hue or Samsung SmartThings. SimCam features person detection, facial recognition, and object tracking. Those AI features can be used as triggers in IFTTT, which gives users a third way to interact with their homes.
What is the Best AI Technology to Use in your Home?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question as it will mainly depend on your application and personal preferences. AI vision can go a long way towards making your home more secure and eliminating a lot of the false positives we see with traditional motion-based sensing. Voice-based AI can make our homes more approachable and more natural to use.
Voice is a great entry into AI in your home, but voice control is not always the most appropriate way to do things. Would you really want to ask Alexa to turn on a light late at night when family members are sleeping? No, you wouldn’t so you would be left either using an app or a physical switch unless you were using AI vision.
An AI-vision sensor could recognize that it was you, know what time it is and turn on lights accordingly. This approach makes far more sense as it requires no interaction from a user and will not disturb the people around you.
With that in mind, you might think that AI-Vision is the way to go, but really the combination of both technologies is ideal. Voice can give you two-way interaction and help with complicated tasks while vision can act right away for you based on exactly what it is seeing.
The Role of AI in the Smart Home of the Future
AI is always learning because it is always seeing and hearing. These learning can be used by the AI to make itself better and tailor itself to the individual home.
Right now, lighting control primarily uses schedules to turn lights on or off when the user thinks they need to be on or off. This is not all that smart as lives and behaviors change. Using AI you could never need to schedule lights to turn on or off again because the AI could learn when you want those lights on, for how long you want them on and at what brightness.
I always fall back on the coffee maker as an example of why we need AI in our homes. There are ways of automating coffee making but for the most part, you are limited to doing it based on time. I for one do not wake up at the same time every day so scheduling my coffee-making just does not work. Using AI Vision technology, however, a sensor can know that I am awake and start the coffee-making process as soon as my feet hit the floor. You could argue that a traditional motion sensor could do the same, but it would do so without intelligence which would lead to coffee being made when my cat triggers the sensor.
Advancements in consumer AI are currently being driven by AI Vision because of its level of intelligence and because it can learn. The AI-controlled home is not that far off and the more people that start adopting AI technologies, the faster this growth will happen.
AI in the smart home is the future that the Jetsons promised us when we were kids and we are quickly approaching this future. Are you excited to get there? I am!