1.6 Prototypical Applications

1.6.5 Smart House

A smart house is a house looks after itself and its inhabitants. It can be seen as a mix of the other applications.

A smart house is an inside-out robot. It has physical sensors and actuators. It should be able to sense where people, pets and objects are. It should be able to adjust lighting, sound, heat, etc., to suit the needs of its occupants, while reducing costs and minimizing environmental impacts. A smart home will not only have fixed sensors and actuators, but will be combined with mobile robots, and other actuators, such as arms on the kitchen walls to help with cooking, cleaning and finding ingredients.

A purchaser of a smart house may expect it to be able to clean floors, dishes and clothes and to put things where they are kept. It is easy to clean a floor with the assumption that everything small on the floor is garbage. It is much more difficult to know which of the small items are precious toys and which are junk that should be discarded, and this depends on the individual inhabitants and their age. Each person may have his or her own categorization of objects and where they are expected to be kept, which forces a smart house to adapt to the inhabitants.

A smart house also must act as a diagnostician. When something goes wrong, it should be able to determine what is the problem and fix it. It should also be able to observe the inhabitants and determine if there is something wrong, such as someone has been injured or there is a burglary.

Sometimes a smart house needs to act as a tutoring system. It may have to explain its actions to someone, and to do this it has to take into account the knowledge and the level of understanding of the person.

A smart house may also need to act as a purchasing agent. The house should notice when essential items, such as toilet paper, soap or essential foodstuff are running low and should order more. Given a decision about what food each inhabitant wants, it should make sure the ingredients are in stock. It might even need to decide when inessential items, such as junk food, should be kept in stock. It also might need to decide when to discard perishable items, without creating too much waste or putting people’s health at risk.

A smart house would include energy management. For example, with solar energy providing power during daylight hours, it could determine whether to store the energy locally or buy and sell energy on the smart grid. It could manage appliances to minimize cost of energy, such as washing clothes when water and electricity are cheaper.