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The Augmented House: Transforming Homes into Intelligent Sanctuaries

Jonas Hultenius
Mar 14, 2024

For years I have been skeptical about home automation, something that makes me stand out in the crowed amongst fellow tech enthusiasts. I think the tech part is interesting, but I have failed to see the greater vision and be impressed by the possibilities to turn on and off the lights in my study from the other side of the globe. It’s novel and fun at first but quickly becomes just a gimmick.

However, in the era of rapid technological advancement where AI has become readily available to the masses, the concept of a smart home has evolved beyond mere automation. The vision of an “Augmented House” represents a new frontier in home intelligence, promising not just convenience but a seamless integration of technology into our daily lives.

Imagine a home that recognizes you the moment you approach the door. Facial recognition technology, coupled with sophisticated AI algorithms, can transform the entryway into an intelligent checkpoint. No more unwarranted solicitors, the door only opens for recognized individuals, ensuring security and peace of mind.

The video doorbell of today, that gives you the possibility to answer the door from anywhere in the world including abroad and the bathtub also, as a bane, forces you to answer the door while abroad or during a relaxing bath.    Instead, imagine a doorbell that can greet your visitors without your assistance and send traveling vacuum-cleaned salesmen packing while informing you only when you’re really needed. Like a butler!    It could even open the door for guests while you’re finishing up the turkey at thanksgiving or talk to the delivery guy and sign for the package. The last part might be legally ambiguous but might be possible in the not too far future.

Your butler or virtual concierge should even be allowed outside the home to help you with other similar tasks like filtering your calls.

With voice recognition technology and modern LLMs, interacting with your home becomes as natural as conversing with a friend. The virtual concierge adapts to your preferences and learns from your habits, offering a personalized experience that goes beyond automation, it becomes a partner in your well-being and day to day routine.

By letting lifelogging technology tracks your daily activities, from the number of steps taken to the hours of sleep your home can help us stay in shape or take a break or move around a bit when we have been seated for too long.

For the elderly, it serves as a proactive health companion, reminding them to take medication or engage in light exercises. For the younger generation, it fosters healthy routines, nudging them to take breaks or hydrate.

So, your home can be your friendly roommate or your parent encouraging you to do what you need to do or nag you to wash behind your ears. And since we are living largely alone now adays the social interaction we get from our friendly and attentive home can help mitigate some of the negative effects of the lowliness epidemic. It sounds strange but I feel that the house might act in a similar way as a pet. Greeting you when you get home, helping you relax and even listen to your rant about what happened at work. An AI could also transform your home to something much more. Sensors throughout the augmented house continuously monitor environmental factors. The lighting, temperature, and even the scent of a room adjust based on your preferences and activities. A cozy reading nook might have warm lighting and a calming lavender scent, while the kitchen, sensing a cooking session, brightens with cool, functional lighting. All to set the right mood for you. The house would monitor you and others to create an adaptive atmosphere that hopefully is seamless. Turning on lights from miles away has nothing on having the right type of lighting set up for you depending on your needs. Now this is a home I could live in.

But what about security? Traditional burglar alarms and anti-theft solutions have not changed for years. Traditional security systems focus on surveillance, but the augmented house takes security a step further.

Advanced AI algorithms can distinguish between normal activities and potential threats. It can alert you to anomalies, such as a door left ajar or unusual sounds by using the same sensor that the old traditional solutions use. Going beyond that the augmented house can take other factors into account that we’re not using today. Is the strange sound something that has been heard before and does it move between rooms?  Does it have the same pattern as the household’s dog, cat or other pet? Then it’s probably safe.

By using Wi-Fi, we can determine a biomass size and relative position, we can take into account if a new phone or device is close to our home network and camera feeds can be analyzed automatically to see if the trespasser in the yard is even a human. From what I know the number of burglaries that have been tied to organized crime headed by deer and other wildlife is close to zero.

So instead of triggering the alarm and waking you and the neighborhood the augmented house can flash a strobe light or sound a high frequency alarm to scare away any nightly four-footed visitors. Moving on.

In the augmented house, connectivity is seamless. The various smart devices communicate effortlessly, creating an ecosystem where your preferences are mirrored across devices. Your music playlist seamlessly transitions from the living room to the kitchen as you move, and your audiobook picks up where you left off as you switch rooms. This should be possible even today. But for some reason this has not been rolled out to the public. Instead, I have as my assistants to move the sound to where I’m at or interact with my phone. This is just a missed opportunity and frankly a lack of simple innovation.

Next up is a subject close to my hearth, sustainability. Sustainability should be integrated into the very fabric of the augmented house. Smart energy management systems optimize power usage based on occupancy. The house not only adapts to your needs but does so in an environmentally responsible way.

This is also semi-possible since my new heating system, solar panel and appliances all have network access and in theory APIs to integrate to. However, since they are all tied to their own ecosystems and lackluster mobile apps this does not work as expected. We need someone to handle the complexity and control all devices and systems as a whole. My candidate, the augmented house.

All in all, this house sound great. But there must be a downside?  Enter, Privacy Considerations.

While the theoretical augmented house offers unparalleled convenience, privacy remains a paramount concern. Robust encryption, transparent data policies, and user-controlled settings must be in place and of the highest caliber to ensure that the residents retain control over their personal information and not end up in an Orwellian nightmare where the house watches your every move.

I therefore envision this, the augmentation hub, as a home appliance that is placed within the home and controlled by the owner directly. Cloud or edge services are great but somethings you want closer to home. I’ve never seen the real point of home automation but, this I can get behind. It builds upon the existing tech that we have around us already and adopts the latest trend, modern AI to make the sum of all parts greater than they have ever been before. Google Nest and Alexa, Siri and Cortana has nothing on the augmented house. In conclusion, the concept of the augmented house is not just a glimpse into the future, it’s a reflection of our evolving relationship with technology. As homes become more intelligent, the focus shifts from mere automation to creating environments that enhance our well-being, foster learning, and adapt to our ever-changing needs. The augmented house is not just a living space, it’s a responsive, empathetic companion on life’s journey.

About the author

Jonas Hultenius

Software Architect | Sweden
I love technology and I tend to collect languages, techniques, patterns and ideas and stack them high. There is a beautiful synergy to be had and endless possibilities when mixing and matching. A process I find to be both exciting and fun. Innovation has always been a driving force for me.

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