Just ten years ago, the notion of being able to control your house’s lighting, temperature and home security systems remotely from a mobile phone would have seemed like a science fiction movie. The idea of giving your home commands with your voice would have sounded like a far-off luxury, only possibly enjoyed by future generations who would also be taken to work every day in self-driving cars. Smart homes are a concept that, for decades, visionaries have dreamed about – even launching mystical prototypes over the years that would end up being forecasts of what we use today.
What seemed so distant is now a reality – with tech industry pundits calling 2017 the “Year of the Smart Home.” It’s now normal for people we know to now unlock their front doors, control the air conditioning, brew their coffee and arm their home security systems all from their personal smartphone.
The market for connected, or “smart,” appliances ballooned to $18.82 billion in 2017. The popularity of smart home appliances is expected to continue growing rapidly, with Zion Market Research projecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.69% every year until 2024 – when it will be worth a whopping $49.12 billion.
But connected in-home gadgets are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to smart home technology, as the popularity – and future evolution – of this phenomenon is truly driven by artificial intelligence (AI).
Artificial Intelligence & Smart Homes
Would having temperature control, home security, and day-to-day appliances all connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) be as popular today if they were only commanded through our smartphones? Probably not. What has perhaps been the biggest driver of smart home technology’s growing popularity is the introduction of AI-powered personal assistants.
The mass market was first introduced to Siri back in 2011, and iPhone owners suddenly had a voice-controlled AI system in their pockets. In 2013, Microsoft introduced Cortana, and Amazon debuted Alexa and the Amazon Echo the following year – which continues to dominate the “smart box” market to this day.
Out of nowhere, it seemed like everyone from our neighbors to our family members had a voice-controlled speaker sitting in their homes somewhere. In 2018 alone, 45.4 million people in the US will have spoken to a smart speaker. By simply speaking to the always-listening smart box, a vast number of tasks could be completed without lifting a human finger.
That includes the integration of our voice-controlled AI assistants into our smart home: blurting out commands meant that the room would get a little warmer, or the lights a little dimmer. The interconnectivity of our favorite AI personalities with the smart devices we rely on in our homes is the stage of this technology that we are most familiar with today.
But, even though we are using AI on a daily basis these days, the current system relies a lot on human initiative. We tell our digital assistants what to do when we want them to do it and manually schedule it to wake us up at a certain time or perform a certain action when we’re arriving home. They are very user-driven, but when will they become more AI-driven?
When will our AI assistants be able to take over and start making these decisions themselves? Will we be able to rely on these robotic personalities to anticipate our needs and ask us questions so we don’t have to think about boring daily tasks?
This is where Machine Learning (ML) comes into the picture.
The Next Evolution in Smart Home Artificial Intelligence
What is machine learning? ML is an application of AI that enables the system to automatically learn and improve based on its experience as well as the data it collects and analyzes.
Personal assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa, have been around for a while now, playing our music, controlling our devices and answering our questions – but what if that AI system could start learning from us, having conversations with us, and make our lives more convenient without us having to ask?
That is where the future is headed, and it’s all thanks to advances in ML technology. These devices can currently do a lot for us, but eventually they will have the ability to adapt to our needs and goals. They will soon work as an external brain in our lives, and actively managing various aspects of our day-to-day lives.
Imagine a world where your AI assistant sets your alarm earlier on your behalf because it already knows you have an early meeting tomorrow. What about if it could automatically brew you two cups of tea after it realizes you are driving home with a guest in the car instead of driving alone like you usually do?
AI’s current limitations are keeping this advanced adaptability at bay for the time being, but ML is showing some extreme promise – and we can expect that the next step in the evolution of smart home technology will involve a lot more predictive and analytical capabilities.