Imagine coming home to your favorite lavender scent. The lights in your living room turn at just the right brightness and with the shade of your preferred color. The pets have been fed through automatic feeders you control remotely. In the kitchen, dinner started cooking 30 minutes before you arrived, and is now ready. All that’s left for you to do is relax.
That is the promise of the intelligent home designed to meet individual needs and give homeowners the most comfortable living experience possible. Moreover, it offers more than mere comfort. Automated security systems protect the house from calamities and intruders as well.
All these advantages are possible through a network of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, which provide the technological foundation for intelligent homes. Meanwhile, architecture and design ensure that the resulting applications are ergonomic. As a result, this combination of technology and design produces the functionality you’d come to expect from an intelligent home. Programmable lighting, advanced security features, automated temperature control, intelligent appliances, and integrated communication systems are just a few examples of these features.
Very impressive, indeed. And yet, there are deeper issues that need to be addressed before we can really feel at home with the idea.
Intelligent Home: Challenges
As new technologies become available, we need to understand how they affect our lives. Here are some of the most pressing issues facing intelligent homes and their inhabitants.
Dependence on Technology
One of the concerns about intelligent homes is that they bring our dependence on technology to a whole new level. Connected appliances, for example, need the Internet so we can maximize their usefulness. Does this mean that we are helpless if this link is taken away from us?
Intelligent homes also expose us to the same security risks that computer systems and networks constantly face. You may not realize it, but hackers can and have successfully infiltrated multiple smart home systems to spy on households. Since IoT produces loads of data that reveal homeowners’ preferences, chances are that criminals will go to great lengths to grab this information.
Extra Layer of Complexity
Arguably, the most inconvenient feature of intelligent homes is that they add an extra layer of complexity to our already complicated lives. We need to navigate the learning curve for the technologies involved, which may be quite steep. We may also need to adjust our lifestyles and activities to maximize the benefits of these new features.
Privacy intrusion is among the biggest concerns when it comes to intelligent homes. We’ve already seen several incidents where more unscrupulous marketers use smart devices to eavesdrop on the conversations of unsuspecting homeowners. So smart technology is proving problematic for consumers, especially since some manufacturers attribute privacy issues to users who activate devices’ listening features with or without meaning to.
Ever notice why most smart homeowners are quite rich? That’s mainly because of their high cost. Average homeowners would have to lose an arm and a leg to incorporate smart devices into their homes. Hope is not lost, however, as tech giants like Google and Amazon are now offering smart products at more affordable prices.
The Tenant vs. Landlord Argument
To gain a competitive edge, more and more landlords are integrating intelligent home features into their rental properties. Sometimes, though, this practice poses issues on who controls the embedded smart devices. Tenants fear that landlords who remain in control are invading their privacy. Regulations may need to be put in place to remedy the issue.
Visions of futuristic homes certainly seem amazing. Nevertheless, just like for every significant technology that impacts our lives, we need to think through its nuances.
Intelligent Home Applications
Despite the cons listed above, the arrival of smart homes seems inevitable. Let’s take a look at what has already been undertaken today in designing an intelligent home.
Smart Home Energy
- Appliance usage adjusts according to current needs, like lights turning off in an unoccupied room.
- Alerts are sent regarding in-home activities, so owners can identify when there is unnecessary energy usage.
Smart Home Security
- Monitoring devices like cameras and sensors, smart lock systems, and alert systems notify the owners and authorities in case of a break-in attempt.
- Remote control lets homeowners monitor appliances as well as suggest their presence even if they’re away.
- Appliances like robot vacuums, pet feeders, and automatic sprinklers can do chores according to owners’ schedules.
- Users can employ If This Then That (IFTTT) and other commands, such as “If I receive a phone call, then the television’s volume should lower.”
- The sound system, temperature, fragrance, and lighting can be adjusted to enhance the sensory experience.
- Settings check occupants’ health. For example, a smart bed studies the health condition of a person to provide the best sleep quality.
- Sound systems can be devised to provide the best surround experience within the house.
- Lighting can be completely transformed to give life to any event.
Intelligent vs. Smart Home: Is There a Difference?
When discussing advancements in homes, it is pretty common to encounter the terms “intelligent home” and “smart home.” While the two may be synonymous, they do differ in terms of technological application.
A smart home is made possible with the aid of Internet connectivity. Homeowners can remotely control and monitor their abodes when they are online. Some would refer to smart home technology as a form of home automation that aims to provide a more secure and comfortable living arrangement without incurring extra costs.
In general, smart home automation is often programmed or triggered by the user. For example, the homeowners can time their air-conditioning system to turn on 30 minutes before they arrive home. The many advantages a smart home offers have made it a popular choice for many.
Intelligent homes, on the other hand, are way more advanced than smart homes. They use algorithms that allow them to come up with complex decisions based on the data they gather.
Intelligent homes can learn about their users’ routines and preferences. All these get fed into their machine learning (ML) and predictive technology components. Suppose the homeowners frequently turn the air-conditioning on at a specific time. An intelligent home learns this daily routine and automatically turns on the air-conditioning system without the need for user preprogramming.
Intelligent homes can come up with decisions by making a thorough analysis of available data. The longer the intelligent home gets exposed to the homeowner’s practices, the better its responses to specific triggers. Later on, an intelligent home can automatically adjust the home’s temperature, depending on the weather. Eventually, the algorithms can learn the homeowner’s lifestyle and make suggestions for conserving energy.
In short, intelligent homes mimic how the homeowner’s brain functions and decision-making process.
Intelligent Homes of the Future: What Do They Look Like?
The advent of intelligent homes seems inevitable, as many homeowners are currently priming their abodes for the technology.
Swedish research firm Berg Insight, in fact, claimed that by 2022, around 63 million households in the U.S. would be considered “smart.” That means each house will use some form of artificial intelligence (AI). And so intelligent homes of the future are likely to have these at the very least:
Smart Kitchen Gadgets
Perhaps some of the best iterations of intelligent home technology that will become widely available are kitchen gadgets. Smart homes of the future are bound to have smart Crock-Pots that can connect to Alexa. Alexa can then let homeowners know how much cooking time is left or even control the process via their smartphones.
Beyond the kitchen, bathrooms will also get smart technology treatments with smart showers. These can be set to automatically turn on at the right temperature while factoring in the room temperature and weather, along with the homeowner’s preference.
It is also exciting to see smart homes of the future replacing traditional lights with energy-efficient walls with built-in motion- and outdoor-sensing functionalities.
Intelligent homes offer many promising ways to improve people’s lives, but we also need to be aware of how their comforts and conveniences can make us inescapably dependent on technology.