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learning systems?

there is much research into home automation systems that learn the user’s behavior patterns and adjust the home’s processes accordingly. for instance, the system can learn when you wake up, when you leave the house, when you return, when you hang out in the living room and when you go to sleep, when you make breakfast and do your laundry, etc. by learning your behavior, it can automatically turn lights on and off, do the dishes, run the washing machine, adjust the HVAC, etc. it certainly sounds interesting and it is exactly the type of environment we envision when watching and reading sci-fi. it has the capacity to save energy and reduce user interaction, but is it really what we want?

a lot of time is spend in papers discussing how to filter out ‘noise’ – abnormal or random user behaviors that can negatively affect the system’s understanding of daily routines. this is, of course, a necessary development in a learning home automation system, otherwise it might accidentally start making coffee if you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. there is a certain valhalla quality in the literature surrounding smart systems and how they can save users from aggravation and wasted time, in addition to much more pressing concerns such as accommodating the elderly or disabled. those are really the only instances where i can see such systems being of immediate use; i feel that time would be better spent researching a successful open standard automation system where all standard components can speak to each other and be easily programmed. when simple home automation systems are successfully developed and deployed, altering the landscape of ‘home interaction’ and energy savings, only then should more advanced systems that actually learn your behavior be developed. it’s like researchers are jumping the gun and trying to learn how to walk before learning to crawl.

the idea of my house knowing when i’m coming home and having the lights on and cup of tea brewing is kind of creepy. but then again, all new technology is discomforting before one becomes familiar with and appreciate of its benefits.

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