Automating the home, at least to some degree, is easily possible now with off-the-shelf products from companies like Nest and Philips. Light bulbs and thermostats with wifi connections can be controlled from dedicated smartphone apps allowing for some automation as well as remote manual controls, whether you’re in the home or elsewhere. It sounds great in principle but creating an effective solution that doesn’t demand more of your time trying to deal with dropped WiFi signals and multiple phone apps isn’t quite so simple.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that he has put together an effective solution in his own home. Speaking at a Facebook internal Q&A session in Rome, Zuckerberg briefly described the project he has been working on. Using advanced AI software solutions from the engineers at Facebook, he said has been personally building a Smart House solution in his own home and hopes to be able to show it publicly in the next month.
The exact scope of the project is unclear at the moment, but includes the lights, temperature and security access. Using voice and facial recognition through an AI should in theory make the system easier to use and control, hopefully avoiding the inconvenience of relying on smartphone apps for simple adjustments. An AI could also theoretically improve the efficiency of the system, learning about usage patterns and monitoring energy usage to determine, for example, how to best control the temperature when the home is empty. Zuckerberg explained, “I got it to this point where now I can control the lights, I can control the gates, I can control the temperature — much to the chagrin of my wife, who now cannot control the temperature because it is programmed to only listen to my voice.”
Convenience seems to be the primary goal of Zuckerberg’s project, and he does imply that it’s still an ongoing development. Amazon have already proven with the Echo how effective voice control can be in providing a convenient interface, and Google Home is expected to arrive later this year as well. At the moment though, both focus on music and information rather than home automation. The project came from a personal challenge that Zuckerberg set for himself, so it’s unclear at the moment whether he has commercial applications in mind.