Last year we published a list of smart home terms that are important for anyone interested in the space. Since then, we’ve received a number of questions from people about other terminology. Technology moves very quickly, and there are some new buzzwords about the smart home to consider today that weren’t part of the conversation even a few months ago. Therefore, here is a new list of terms that come up in the smart home vernacular.
AI stands for artificial intelligence. It lately has become a big deal in the smart home with the advent of voice recognition devices. There is a bit of confusion, though, when it comes to what AI in the smart home really means. In this case, we can consider two different types of AI: Natural Language Processing (voice recognition) and Machine Learning.
When you speak to a system such as Josh.ai, you can speak normally (“Make it warmer in here” or “Set the temperature to 75”, for example) instead of computer speak (“Computer, temperature 75”). In order to be able to speak naturally, the system needs to have some sort of algorithm that can understand implied meaning and recognize different ways to say the same thing. Josh’s AI algorithm is proprietary and has been refined specifically for the home, but other AIs, such as Siri, are more general in nature.
One thing that people are excited about is the prospect of a home automation system learning your habits and automatically making decisions to help make your life easier. This is where machine learning comes in. While some devices and solutions out there, such as Nest, have some aspect of learning built in, accurate learning and decision making is not an easy thing to do. No system out there has developed the right technology yet that performs true AI home automation. So when you hear “AI” in the context of the smart home, make sure you dig deeper to understand what specifically they have in mind.
Most smart devices out there are IP enabled. IP stands for Internet Protocol, and a device that is IP enabled simply means that the device can connect to a network and communicate with that network. In a smart home, you can use your cell phone to control your Nest thermostat because both devices are connected to the network and can therefore communicate with each other via IP. Common IP enabled devices include Sonos, Nest, and LIFX. One easy way to know something is IP enabled is if it has an app.
IoT (Internet of Things)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects — devices, vehicles, buildings and other items — embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. — Wikipedia
The smart home is a subset of the Internet of Things. The IoT industry is expected to grow exponentially within the next few years, with some sources projecting over $6 trillion dollars being spent on IoT solutions during that time.
Every “smart” device including your Apple TV and smart sensors are part of the Internet of Things. The potential is to interconnect all your IoT devices so you can have a single way of controlling and automating everything.
Sometimes you will hear devices such as Philips Hue and Nest referred to as DIY products. DIY stands for “do-it-yourself.” The idea here is that these devices are cheap enough and easy enough to install on your own, where traditionally they have been at too high a price point and/or too complicated to install yourself. Previously, home automation and the smart home have only been available to the very wealthy, since it required hiring an AV installer to hard wire everything together. As the technology for connected devices continues to develop, expect to see price points continue to decrease while ease of use continues to increase. Most products you can buy off the shelf are considered DIY.
No doubt, in a few months time, the smart home landscape will look different and there may be more confusing terminology to deal with. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot us a message (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’d be happy to help make sense of what is arguably a disjointed industry.