Are You Smarter Than Your House?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has promised to provide a refrigerator that senses when the milk it stores is running low and adds it to the weekly grocery list automatically downloaded to the delivery service. While convenient, this is nothing compared to a system that has learned the homeowners preference for eggnog during the holidays and stocks up ahead of time. That is the promise of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Are Your Home Devices Smart or Intelligent?

In an era when 1 out of 5 kids under age 8 has a smartphone, AI can seem like nothing more than a next step. A process that began with electric lights and the light switch just seems to be continuing. In fact, some articles confuse “smart” technology and the IoT with AI. An analogy to a dog can help make the difference clear.

A dog can be trained to do many things. Some of these things are entertaining tricks, and some are useful tasks. This is like smart apps and the interconnection of devices on the Internet. However, a dog can also protect a house against burglars no matter how they try to break into a house. A dog can also tell when its owner is sad or sick. This is AI.

“Smart” garage doors are another example. Currently, sensors in the garage are alerted by the homeowner’s car and open the overhead door in response. The system can also be programmed to turn on the lights in the foyer. But an AI system has learned what time to expect the homeowner to return and will send a text message confirming it is the homeowner if a signal arrives at an unexpected time.

AI Adds Value to Homes

Smart systems need to be taught everything. Worse yet, they have to be communicated with in a way that the system understands. This can mean a keyboard, a touch screen or a voice command, but it must conform to the programming of the system. The problem with this is that a homeowner carrying several bags of groceries into a dark kitchen might not remember to say “Turn on kitchen lights now.”

This interface is the focus of  new developments using AI. The goal is to design systems that understand a natural language and are not confused by slight differences in format. The AI system puts a command like “Lights!” into the context of a person entering a dark room and responds by turning on the lights in that room. This makes the system both much more functional and much more valuable to the homeowner.

However, to be able to think in this way the AI system needs to know that (1) a person is entering (2) the room is dark. This requires sensors to know where the homeowner is going and the condition of the room at that time. These types of sensors are another aspect of AI that is currently under development. Obviously, the AI system also has to be hard wired into the electrical wiring of the house if it is going to be able to turn lights on and off.

AI Real Estate Market Value

Understanding the value of AI is absolutely necessary to properly valuing a home that is “wired” for this type of system. Currently, so few homes have these systems in place that they might be considered a small item valued by a select group of buyers, much like a koi pond in the backyard. However, in the future this will probably be one of the items listed on an appraiser’s evaluation, just like “Air Conditioning” or “Burglar Alarm” is now.