Our previous articles here have looked at the various nuts and bolts surrounding Artificial intelligence. We’ll be continuing these in the future, but this is a good moment to start taking a look at how AI can provide some practical benefits to you. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to deliver tangible benefits in so many areas. From space exploration to mining deep underground, the limits to applying AI are boundless. But let’s start much closer to home; in fact, your own home.
Are there actually uses of artificial intelligence in the home? Of course. AI is already available to a certain extent within the home environment. You can use digital assistants such as Google’s Alexa or Amazon’s Echo to provide information and advice. These are also capable of limited connectivity to other domestic items – washing machines are a good example – to perform certain timed tasks. But let’s say your home contains a wider range of features, all of which have been commercially available for some time.
- Solar & renewable energy
- Heating system
- Powered blinds and shutters
- Digital locks and security
- Smart devices – washing machines, tumble dryers, fridges, televisions, home entertainment systems
- A web link to key information portals providing weather and transport data
- And the icing on the cake – an EV or EB (in advance of an offering from Triumph, the Vespa Elettrica will be nice, thank you)
You probably already have a some idea of the features each item can provide in isolation. Quite a few are genuinely useful too, although some might be viewed as a little gimmicky. But they have one thing in common; they may deliver some benefit but it can be outweighed by you needing to monitor and control them.
Let’s turn this around and consider how an AI platform, which can take in the data from several of those items and from external sources to operate them in concert. The platform will act as the conductor of this digital orchestra of information, to automate and thus remove a whole raft of tasks – and help you to save time, effort or money – or all three.
Uses of Artificial Intelligence in the Home: Some Simple Scenarios
Making Life a little more comfortable
First, the platform will take the data from devices and systems – your security systems for example – to become acquainted with your daily patterns in your home. This will be when you are physically there and which rooms you typically use. This allows the platform to recognise when specific rooms need to be heated ahead of you using them – for example, the bathroom when you wake up, or your main living room in an evening. Rooms that are not in use can be kept at a lower temperature, reducing energy usage. Similarly, televisions or entertainment can be powered up from cold in advance instead of leaving them permanently on standby.
That’s quite a simple concept and to some extent a standalone heating system can do a limited version of this task. But the platform can also take upcoming weather information to introduce more flexibility. Room temperature monitoring may show that if it’s sunny outside and the outside temperature is above a certain point, some rooms heat up beyond a comfortable level at set times of day. This knowledge within the AI platform allows it to take action in advance, helping to maintain a comfortable environment. If you have a pet which stays in a room while you are out, this will help them avoid becoming stressed.
From a security perspective, the AI platform will know when to expect you to leave and return home. It can then set different security tiers to further protect your space. Let’s say you dropped your keys outside by accident when leaving one morning. Even if someone picked them up and then tried to open the door, the AI platform knows this is outside your usual pattern of events. It can alert you via your phone that your home is being accessed even though the right key is being used.
The security point goes further for homes with security shutters installed. These are becoming increasingly popular in both new and retrofit sectors, and can be automated on time of day – lower them at 10pm and raise at 6am on weekdays for example – as well as use them as a sun barrier in conjunction with blinds to control room temperature.
Work & Travel
You will have noticed that weather information features a few times so far. Let’s combine this with travel data to see how AI can help. It’s a weekday morning, it’s around zero degrees outside, the trains have been cancelled due to a signalling failure and the motorway to the office has roadworks. In other words, you’re driving in today and it’s going to be a real grind. Now, the AI platform will know your route usually takes 40 minutes, but in the roadworks means that’s now doubled and you will have the heater on all the way in. Your EV sitting in your garage tells the AI platform the current charge rate of 65% doesn’t give a decent safety margin – it has to be 91% minimum. So, with the incoming information the platform can instruct the EV to accept a top-up from the charger unit. So your car gets the amount of energy it actually needs for the day, removing a nasty surprise from your already changed morning routine.
AI & Energy
We’ve really only covered some nice scenarios to help show some practical uses of Artificial Intelligence in the home. And they’re all possible today; the hardware exists and the software tools to bring them together. But the big story for AI is how it can help how your home collect, store and consume energy. The data from your home patterns – when you need power and what for – combined with external weather data allows an AI platform to determine which source of energy you should use, when to store it, and when to upload it to distributors. And that last one might become particularly useful if the energy market opens up to more competition, with options to auction your stored energy to third parties outside of any domestic contract you currently hold. We most certainly live in interesting times.