Technology

Beyond IoT: bring tomorrow’s tech into today

 By Livia Formisani

Gone are the days of having to manage multiple devices singularly – we’ve entered the era of connected home technologies

Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) with its many sensors and interfaces, appliances can “talk” to each other and enable us to control multiple aspects at once. And, with the advent of Amazon Echo, Google Home and others, connected systems are changing the way we manage our personal spaces, all while making our lives easier and reducing our carbon footprint.
As we start to get more familiar and comfortable with these new technologies, a new and decisive factor is entering the IoT scene: artificial intelligence (AI). Thanks to the cloud, as well as the increasingly smaller sizes and higher performances of electronic components, AI is spreading to the consumer universe. New devices able to “learn” from user behavior are flooding the market. Based on input from sensors and appliances, they adapt to our habits and preferences, correct their functioning in case of emergency and continuously optimize their own consumption. This, in turn, will revolutionize the electronics sector, and change the way we interact with technology and use our resources: energy, time, and money. It’s already happening at the industrial level, allowing companies to save significantly, and become more sustainable.

Constant growth

In the near future, we can expect these intelligent smart home devices to be connected to central home systems, collect data on behavior and usage and then make autonomous decisions. That can include such tasks as lowering the blinds during the warmest hours in the summer and raising them in the winter, or even combining the power of different sensors to provide a vast array of data we can learn from to optimize our consumption.
And we are well past the early adopter phase: according to the Boston Consulting Group, by 2020 companies will be spending $300 billion in IoT equipment, and we can expect the added capabilities of AI to take center stage in the buyer decision process. With massive consumer adoption bound to follow closely, we took a look at a few intelligent smart home products to give you an idea of the current state of the industry, and provide some insights into the future of technology, and of our own homes.

  • Nest Learning Thermostat. This Energy Star-certified thermostat features machine learning capabilities. During the first week of usage, it examines customer behavior to learn heating and cooling preferences (such as time and temperature setting), then it starts working autonomously by building a schedule around the user. According to the manufacturer, the thermostat can save its owners an average of 10% to 12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills each year. Nest uses smartphone location services to check whether the user is at home; if not, it switches itself to eco mode to conserve energy. What’s more, additional temperature sensors can be purchased from Nest and placed in every room. These thermostats can also be set to prioritize certain spaces (a baby’s nursery, for instance).
  • Phyn Plus Water Monitoring System. This water monitoring system fits into existing pipes and measures the water flow and pressure up to 240 times per second, learning and monitoring consumption habits to detect unexpected events in real time, such as leaks and pipes about to freeze. When it identifies unusual events, Phyn shuts off the water supply to avoid damage, and alerts the user via phone notifications. The device also features a plumbing check function to uncover hidden drips, as well as analytic capabilities to display insights on consumption. The product recently received a CES 2018 Innovation Award.
  • Cocoon HD Home Security Camera. This smart security camera uses artificial intelligence powered by its proprietary Subsound® technology to learn when a user is at home by monitoring its phone GPS location as well as infrasound levels (frequencies imperceptible to humans) throughout the home. That means there is no need to activate or deactivate the security system when leaving or entering the house—Cocoon is able to do so autonomously. Once set up, the system’s AI capabilities enable it to distinguish between normal and suspicious activity. In the latter case, the device sends a notification to the user’s phone, from which he or she can access a live HD video stream and decide whether or not to activate a very loud 90+ dB alarm.

And more to come

A large number of intelligent smart home products are currently being developed and tested with plans to go to market on the horizon, thanks to partnerships between electronics giant like Xiaomi and Ikea and multimillion dollar investments from the likes of Intel, Amazon, Techstars Central, and others. What’s more, the advent of 5G connectivity is upon us, and experts agree that its much faster data transfer rates (10-20 times quicker than 4G) will significantly contribute to the adoption of IoT devices by enabling more connections at once, which in turn will accelerate digital transformation. With billions of connected devices already operating, one of the sector’s most popular topics at the moment is securing connected systems to prevent unauthorized access to the very same networks which control our houses.
From a consumer perspective, appliances are about to become much more attractive, with a vast array of expanded functionalities, thanks to the capabilities offered by AI and IoT combined. This will also lead to the introduction of completely new devices. With innovations like smart home theaters that feature touchscreen and voice command technology, mattresses that boast temperature controls and smart alarms and more, we can expect artificial intelligence to gain an increasingly bigger role in home automation, and change the way we interact with our surroundings.

READ MORE: AI in the family by RP Siegel

about the author
Livia Formisani