As they said in The Matrix, “We marveled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to AI.”  Smart speakers have brought artificial intelligence (AI) into our homes in a way that was incomprehensible only a few years ago. The AI that is responsible for the voice recognition in these devices is amazing and has made it dramatically easier to control our smart homes. Note, that I said “control our smart homes.”

For the most part, AI’s role in the smart home has simply been a new, and more convenient, way for people to control the devices in their home; using their voice. That is starting to change and for both integrators and homeowners there will be a dramatic transformation.

Integrators can offer homeowners true automation of their smart homes that matches the way the homeowner uses their home. The smart home processor/hub can be programmed to, for example:

But, all of the above requires a good programmer, who earns in excess of $100,000 per year, and therefore is very expensive to implement. The alternative is a smart home that learns how the homeowners use their home and takes actions that anticipate the homeowners’ needs. All this may sound like science-fiction but only a few years ago the same could be said about voice control.

The first step toward a truly sentient home is migrating to individual products that use AI to provide advanced capabilities. Unlike the smart home of today where programming costs are the responsibility of the individual homeowner, these products allow the programming costs to be shared among all purchasers of the products; which greatly reduces the cost to the individual. This allows the cost of advanced features to be much more affordable.

However, the best AI system still needs to initially be customized for an individual homeowner’s needs.  For example, to turn on pathway lights at night the AI would need to be told which lights are in the primary pathway for the homeowners entering the home. The AI could, at that point, learn the homeowner’s habits and take additional actions. For example the AI might learn the following about the homeowner’s behavior.

So, while a sentient, AI-based smart home is still years away, what steps can integrators and homeowners take today to make their home as smart as possible?

As I touched upon in my examples of how a home could learn and take actions to benefit homeowners, a sentient home will require advanced sensors. Ideally the home would be able to individually identify each member of a family and where they are in a home. The AI-based system could then, for example:

The cost of the sensors necessary for a home to be sentient is a loss, real or perceived, of privacy. It is one thing for the code controlling a home to be running on a local processor/hub and have access to all this information about the occupants of a home. It is very different for the code, and all the information about the family, to run somewhere in the cloud on a server owned by Facebook, Google, or Amazon. Privacy is a topic I want to explore in more depth in an upcoming article.

*I have code on my github that allows a Crestron automation system to automatically open/close shades and drapes based on the angle/elevation of the sun, obstacles around a home (mountains, trees, etc.) that could block the sun, the weather, and more.  The code is located here:

Jay Basen has been a home automation hobbyist for over 25 years and has worked professionally in the industry for 12 years. His professional background is electrical engineering and software development. He has a master's degree in engineering and has been writing software professionally for almost 40 years. To read more of Jay's articles, visit his blog

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