Smart phones are like personal digital assistants loaded with applications, social media and portable electronic devices all at the touch of a button. And an engineer at Washington State University wants to bring the same concept to the home.
Diane Cook, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at WSU says that a 'smart home' can use computers and sensors to monitor our environment and anticipate our needs. She believes artificial intelligence in the home will improve our health and energy efficiency.
"We want your home as a whole to think about what you need and use the components in it to do the right thing," she says.
Cook runs 25 test homes throughout the Pacific Northwest to demonstrate how artificial intelligence could be applied to various settings.
For example, eighteen apartments in Seattle are being tested as homes for elderly residents. The homes are equipped with technology that monitors day-to-day activities and can alert caregivers if the residents aren't eating, waking up or taking their medication on time.
Smart homes can also be designed to automatically regulate energy use by running laundry machines at off-peak hours and turning off all unused appliances without the aid of human programming.
One thing standing in the way of this Jetsons-esque future though, is the challenge of getting people to accept and adopt the new technologies. After all, the watchful eye of artificial intelligence does raise privacy concerns. But, Cook says those issues can be overcome.
She writes in Science:
"Ultimately," she says, "when people get a better understanding of what these technologies do and see a usefulness that counterbalances their skittishness, adoption will start. I'm guessing some technologies will gain momentum once they're starting to be used."