© Michael Hechtel / FAPS-FAU
AI influences more than just our work environment. We are also increasingly using intelligent robots or programs in the privacy of our homes. Many times, we are not even aware that a special app or a device is based on AI – think apps on our smartphones, kitchenware or robots helping us with our daily activities and challenges.
We are also using AI more and more frequently during our spare time. For example, only few people still lug around analog dictionaries when they travel abroad. It is much easier to consult digital translation tools that use AI to achieve better and more idiomatic translations of foreign languages.
More comfort with smart living
AI is also at the bottom of a new lifestyle trend that is becoming increasingly popular – so-called smart living. This trend consists in apps triggering smart actions in our homes to make our lives easier, dimming ceiling lights when the sky clears up and there is more light outside or automatically switching the light on when we want to read a book, to name just a few examples. Thanks to AI, we do not even have to get up from our chair. It evaluates information on the surroundings from sensors and actuators inside and outside the building to take appropriate decisions 'on its own'. There are practically no limits on upgrading these convenience functions and users can adapt them to their individual needs. Extensive research and development is currently being done in this field to further enhance the use of digital technologies in private households.
Making things easier for the elderly in everyday life
AI and smart living are currently combined within a large-scale research project called ForeSight. ForeSight is a platform which provides various AI services intended to recognise behavioural patterns and create added value in everyday activities. In this context, more and more opportunities for AI implementation will arise especially in the fields of geriatric care and convenience.
AI can also help us master the challenges Germany and other countries are facing due to demographic change. It is particularly in the field of so-called Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) where AI and smart living can improve the everyday life of elderly people in a discrete way and based on their individual situation.
This is a great relief for many older adults who want to stay at home as they age. Not only can assistant robots help them lift, clean or communicate with acquaintances or relatives, it is also already possible to diagnose and monitor various diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or strokes. Extensive research is also being done in this field in order to relieve the pressure on health care systems and nursing homes and to support and prepare the elderly population for the coming challenges in the best possible way.
© Michael Hechtel / FAPS-FAU
Managing energy and protecting the climate
The last important field of AI application in our homes is the energy management of buildings both in private and commercial environments.
When we are not at home or while ventilating a room, the heating system can adjust independently, thus saving a lot of heating costs and emissions. The same applies to light control in our homes – if a room is not occupied, the lights are switched off. AI can add some intelligence to these 'dumb' sensors and actuators by recognising that there are certain times when we are never at home, for example during working hours. This enables the heating to reduce the temperature before we even leave the house, efficiently using the residual heat in the room and saving even more costs. If implemented on a large scale, such applications and recognised behavioural patterns play a key role in slowing down climate change.
Now that we have described the two different fields of AI application, we will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of AI in our remaining two articles. You can then build an informed opinion on the potential advantages and disadvantages of implementing AI yourself.
Please also read part 3 of this series: ‘Why it makes sense to use AI’!
Michael Hechtel, M. Sc.
Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU)
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Institute for Factory Automation and Production Systems (FAPS)