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The future of the IoT-enabled smart home

What if I told you that the internet of things will completely eliminate burglaries? Seem pretty extreme?

Or what if I said it could end domestic violence?

These are bold predictions, but I strongly believe that life will be fundamentally different with smart homes powered by artificial intelligence.

To date, a completely IoT-enabled smart home has been more of a pipe dream than a reality. Technology integrations have largely failed up until this point, leaving our homes with an embarrassingly low IQ.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities will finally give our homes the smart upgrade they desperately need. Our household appliances will have expanded capabilities and the ability to intuitively link together, something that has prevented and plagued IoT platforms from reaching their full potential.

I envision a home where machines are another participating member of our household. From basic roles like completing chores (without complaining like humans!) to more serious roles like preventing break-ins or listening for and reporting evidence of domestic abuse, artificial intelligence has the transformative powers to finally make an autonomous, proactive and useful smart home an attainable reality.

Creating and expanding existing capabilities

Machine learning takes smart devices from reactive to proactive. Imagine: instead of just being able to start your dishwasher via a mobile app or receiving a simple push notification when it’s done running, your dishwasher starts itself when it senses it’s full and runs through the appropriate cycles, taking into consideration its contents.

This is taken to the next level when we think of how artificial intelligence will not only make our devices proactive alone, but proactive together. A smart outdoor security camera that can recognize a stranger walking up to your front door will then be able to automatically communicate with your smart lock to lock everything up and set the alarm. This ability to respond immediately is what could completely end burglaries. The movie Home Alone to our kids is going to be like us watching a movie about fighting cattle rustlers.

The next level of the IoT-enabled smart home will be to first understand when something out of the ordinary is happening, and then autonomously solve the problem with corresponding responses. This is what developers need to focus on now to make sure that their products can easily function among others and within a larger ecosystem to seamlessly come together.

With great power comes great responsibility

But as the technology evolves, so does the moral ambiguity of what party is trusted with taking responsibility for the data that flows between devices. This specifically includes the information gleaned from this data and may not be related to the technology’s core functions.

Think about that home security example again. Security cameras that capture property crime may also capture scenes of domestic violence. Or microphones listening for commands to turn on the TV or read the weather report may also hear evidence of child abuse.

Is it then the responsibility of these companies to train products during their creation to detect and recognize other compromising events that may not be central to the product’s main function? And if it’s recognized, is there an obligation to then report it in the same way an official, like a first responder or teacher, would? If we decide that yes, this is something that needs to happen, then the IoT-enabled smart home may be able to completely end domestic violence because of its massive deterrent effect. Knowing that someone is watching makes people behave better (although, we could have an entirely separate discussion on the double-edged sword that is a 24-hour surveillance state).

As the knowledge and intelligence of machines increases, this responsibility component becomes more important, particularly the responsibility of these machines to be proactive considering knowledge gained. This then brings up the issue of trust — users need to be able to trust that machines will do the “right thing” when information is gathered that signals a need for proactivity. Defining what the right thing is must be faced as questions arise to the allegiance of these machines — does it belong to the user? Or the manufacturer?

These questions merely scratch the surface of the complicated moral and ethical issues that will arise with the increased implementation of artificial intelligence. While these specific points will likely become a more central part of the smart home discussion further into the future, in the immediate, we can expect to see IoT and cohesive usability at a basic level, reach its full potential, by leveraging artificial intelligence.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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