It might not be too long before our homes decide how often our heat should run or even remind us to take our daily medicines. That’s what Washington State University professor Diane Cook writes in a new article in Science.
Cook says that soon sensors and software will be used in the home, acting as “intelligent agents” that can help improve our health and increase our home’s energy efficiency. She has been testing her theories using such artificial intelligences in test homes in the Pacific Northwest. In 18 apartments in Seattle, she has shown that technology can help monitor elderly residents and alert caregivers if they are not eating, bathing or taking medications.
While few homes do much to help consumers in the way of their health, an increasing number of homes are using technology to control energy use. “If you have a programmable thermostat, you have the beginnings of a smart home,” Cook says. “What we’re trying to do is get the home to take over the job of programming it.”
Half of all the energy that consumers use is for powering their homes. Smart home technologies can be applied to more than just temperature though. They can run washers at off-peak times, turn off unneeded appliances and put out lights in empty rooms without residents having to make conscious choices. A number of communities around Washington state are already testing such concepts through the use of smart meters.
Ultimately what it comes down to is adoption of such technologies on a larger scale, Cooks says. “I’m guessing some technologies will gain momentum once they’re starting to be used.” Cook’s work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and Washington State’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund.