Apple Intelligence & The Future of Smart Home 

13.06.24 16:48:24 By Arabella
Written By Casey Barrett, Director 
11th June 2024

Big news from Apple this week, finally joining the race towards AI: “Apple Intelligence” was the headline announcement from their annual WWDC keynote. 

Here’s a handy summary if you missed it but in essence, voice assistant Siri gets a huge boost becoming more powerful, intuitive and integrated with your personal context (all while maintaining user privacy – a big emphasis). 
WWDC Keynote Summary
Apple WWDC 2024- Allison Johnson / The Verge
And that’s where this might get exciting. Apple’s claim: Chat tools [existing AI tools like ChatGPT] know about the world, but know very little about YOU. Combine Apple’s all-encompassing integration with our digital lives (at least for Apple fanboys like me) and the potential capabilities are quite impressive. The example given, “Will the email I just received about a late-starting meeting, mean I might get stuck in traffic enroute to my daughter’s play this evening?” requires on-device AI to understand the implications of a late-starting meeting, who my daughter is, the play details she sent a few days ago, it’s location and the predicted traffic from my current location. Kinda neat! 

So, what about the smart home? Is the technology inside our homes about to get an intelligence boost too? You bet. A few of our industry friends shared their thoughts with us: 

The field of artificial intelligence is evolving at an exceedingly rapid pace, opening up new possibilities and transforming industries, including building automation and lighting controls. We recognize the potential of AI to revolutionize how we manage and control our living environments, enhancing comfort, efficiency, and convenience. As with many new and emerging technologies, Lutron are actively investigating a variety of applications for AI technologies specific to our lighting control systems. Our goal is to identify practical use cases and implement solutions that can drive innovation, optimize energy use, and provide intuitive control options for our users. By staying agile and adaptive in this rapidly changing landscape, we aim to harness the full potential of AI to create a smarter, more responsive, and efficient built environment.

-Chris Yorgey, Sales Engineering Manager @ Lutron

The integration of AI into home automation is set to transform how we live, making homes smarter, more efficient, and more responsive to our needs. Control4’s work in this exciting field will lead to innovations that shape the future of home living, providing both convenience and sustainability. 

-Robert Bawden @ SnapOne

At Crestron, we believe AI will play a transformative role in the future of smart homes. By leveraging the power of AI, we can create truly intelligent and personalized experiences that adapt to the unique needs and preferences of each homeowner. AI-powered systems will learn from user behaviour, anticipate needs, and proactively adjust settings to optimize comfort, convenience, and energy efficiency. 

However, data is the key to unlocking the full potential of AI in smart homes. Crestron is committed to utilising data in a responsible and secure manner, ensuring that it is used to enhance the user experience and not to compromise privacy. We must aim to present our AI solutions in a clear and intuitive format, allowing homeowners to easily understand and control their smart home systems. Our goal is to create AI-powered smart homes that are not only intelligent but also user-friendly. We believe that by focusing on data privacy, security, and intuitive design, we can create a future where AI empowers homeowners to live smarter, more sustainable, and more enhanced lives. 

-Michael Short, Senior Director Marketing Operations and Residential @ Crestron

All very optimistic indeed. However, other than US-only Josh.AI (whose current AI function JoshGPT doesn’t seem to be much more than a voice-activated-trivia-bot) there isn’t much AI being offered for the Smart Home just yet. Perhaps this is understandable; even tech giants like Apple have only just made their announcement and it won’t actually be available to end-users for several more months. But our clients and the design community are asking about this now. So, we’re left to dream:

What could an AI-powered Smart Home look like? 

Taken from website
Like Apple’s ability to leverage its integrated understanding of your personal online world, the key to delivering real life-enhancing experiences with AI at home will be by opening up certain parts of the home’s systems so that AI can interact with it, be it via on-board AI built into systems like Lutron, Control4 or Crestron, or an interface to a third-party AI like Apple, Google or Microsoft. [More about security and privacy in a moment..] 

The smart home of the future will have an intimate knowledge of our behaviours, daily routines and preferences with an ability to learn and adjust the way the home works, optimising the living environment to suit needs we didn’t even realise we had. 

Imagine the world’s best butler, knowing exactly what the homeowner needs when he arrives home: the lights set a certain way, the temperature just right, a favourite playlist playing at the perfect background volume level. Customisation and automation like this have been possible since Smart Home began but required hours of programming and often unrealistic levels of personal engagement between a busy client and their system programmer. The AI-powered Smart Home will create these customisations automatically. 

Now, imagine the same world’s-best-butler scenario when Mr and Mrs client arrive home at the same time. A top-performing real-life house manager understands not just the individual needs of their clients, but how those needs might need to be negotiated, prioritised and a compromise found if two or more residents are present with different preferences. It may only require simple maths: if Mr Client prefers the thermostat at 21-degrees and Mrs Client likes 23-degrees, an AI-powered Smart Home would set 22. But imagine an AI-powered Smart Home that could negotiate between music preferences and find some kind of happy-medium-playlist between Smooth Jazz and 80s Punk Rock (Indie Acoustic?). Or, even one that has awareness of the user’s calendar and decides that no music at all would be preferred after a red-eye flight. A 1-degree temperature difference may seem trivial and clever DJ feature, a gimmick, but when our homes begin to anticipate our needs – the lights, climate, AV, security, even the groceries in the fridge – we’ll spend far less time interacting with buttons and touch panels and apps, and more time living our lives. 

The AI-powered Smart Home of the future will know us, and our families, better than we know ourselves, and help create living spaces that are more convenient, comfortable and enjoyable. 

However, like Apple Intelligence, the AI-powered Smart Home needs our personal data in order to do all this. So, what about privacy and security? 

It’s a scary thought to imagine the vast file of personal data that exists about each of us, and the unfettered access we unknowingly or absentmindedly grant to big companies in exchange for the convenience of the services they provide. Personal data is what will fuel the AI revolution, and what could be more personal than your home itself and how you live in it? 

Apple went to great lengths to emphasise privacy as a core foundation to all their new services. Access to your personal data is necessary, but that data is never stored and never used other than for the purpose you intended. They’ve built the code behind these features in a way that makes these privacy assurances independently verifiable. Perhaps sceptics may still find a way to doubt, but most of us will choose to trust, and share our data in return for the huge leap forward it offers us.   

And trust like this should not be a new concept in the relationship between a homeowner and their Smart Home professional. For many years our clients have entrusted many aspects of their home security and personal lives to their technology integrator: secure IT networks, secure access control, secure intruder alarms, secure surveillance systems. Responsible integrators who adhere to best practices defined by independent organisations in the UK like the NSI and SSAIB earn the same kind of trust. 
So, in the same way, it will be up to the Smart Home professional of the future to advise their client on the role of AI in their home, the pros and cons, the threats and opportunities, what personal data is being collected and how that data will be used. As AI and its role in the home evolves rapidly, we will need to continually educate ourselves and update our best practices to keep our clients secure and continue to deserve their trust. 

What about right now? Should homeowners today hold off investing in tech until an AI-powered Smart Home is here? No, it won’t work quite like that. 

Although the Smart Home of today, or the one we might be installing for our clients in the next 6 months doesn’t include the kind of world’s-best-butler customisations we’ve dreamt about, preparing your home now with smart, connected systems lays the foundation for an AI-powered upgrade in the near future. Ultimately, the most advanced AI isn’t going to make your standard light switch or analogue thermostat any smarter.

Instead, our clients who install today’s smart lighting or whole-home automation system can expect the best of what today’s Smart Home has to offer, and stay on the front foot as the technology continues to evolve. Then, really soon, a quick processor upgrade or perhaps just software update will bring all of the new convenience, comfort and enjoyment that becomes possible with the AI-powered Smart Home of the very near future. 

Let us know what you think!