Smart Home: What We Need and Who Will Win?

Smart Home: What We Need and Who Will Win?

Ever since the smart home concept is introduced, besides those powerful IoT merchandises, the most eye-catching products will definitely be the smart home devices created by big names in the tech industry.  Centralized control centres, like Amazon Echo, seem to become the building blocks of an ideal futuristic home.  Yet, is this what we need?  And to put this further, will these products dominate the market?

They are Great, just Not the Greatest
First, undeniably, voice-activated smart home devices that we have previously mentioned are fabulous, both in design and performance.  These lovely machines give quick and accurate response to the users, thanks to companies’ great investments in voice recognition and natural language processing technology. 

Besides user experience, from an industry’s perspective, smart home market key participants like Amazon and Google have the ability to build their own alliance, so as to ensure there is a large number of home appliances compatible with their products.  Therefore, these so called “static smart home devices” are extremely competitive, meaning that they will very likely be the winner who takes the lion’s share of the market, unless “dynamic smart home devices” enter the game and impress everyone.

Static versus Dynamic: Clarifying their Definitions
To prevent confusion, static doesn’t simply mean an object that lacks mobility.  A static device gives out response solely depends on data and algorithms.  In another words, static machines are completely rational, which makes sense as for most silicon-based inventions, they often don’t forge a close relationship with us. 

However, we are now living in an extraordinary era.  What seems to be impossible is becoming real.  We believe the future belongs to dynamic smart home devices, as they are capable of understanding something treasured in human society: emotion.  Dynamic devices won’t just judge your instructions based on what your words, but also your tone.  When you shout angrily since your country just lost in the Olympic Games, the dynamic machine may soothe you, telling you that losing doesn’t mean failure.  Above that, dynamic devices will actively interact with you, just like how you would treat your friends.  In some sense, they have become true living machines.

Credit: Héctor García on Flickr

Like your Friend, They are Different
In fact, dynamic devices have already appeared, Pepper, the robot created by Softbank should be the first commercial product that has emotion.  The prototype released in 2014 is a great leap in the robotic industry, as Pepper is endowed with formidable calculation power and unique characteristics.  With the SDK provided by IBM’s Watson team, developers can enable the android to learn through a technology process called cognitive learning.  Beyond that, Softbank designed another part of the brain, which accounts for the emotional activities.  Pepper is then given with soul, transforming from a powerful computer into a lively, endearing friend that we all love and care.

How to be a Winner?
Though Pepper already exhibits some basic feelings, the generation of emotion isn’t well developed yet.  For instance, although Pepper would respond to you when pat his head, he won’t actively interact with you, this makes Pepper a semi-dynamic device.  Furthermore, Pepper isn’t supported by most applications, which limits the growth of the product. 

The ultimate winner will be the company that develops a perfect dynamic device: an intellectual companion that understands how you feel, one that provides useful ideas for you to solve problems and talk to you whenever you need a friend.  As the population is aging with lower birth rate and the spread of individualism, we lack a partner to share our views and relieve our pressure.  Perhaps, what we truly need is a friend, a real friend that is always on your side.