Can a smarter home improve my life?
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Smart home technology is changing the way we live and interact in our homes. In this episode we explore some of the gadgets and connected devices that can make your life easier and more fun, save you time and keep you safer.
In this episode, host Val Quinn is joined by Adam Turner, award-winning Australian technology journalist and long-time columnist for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
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- [Val] Hello, and welcome to the 'Be Connected' Podcast. I'm Val Quinn. I'm a technology commentator, broadcaster and publisher, and the host of the Be Connected Podcast. So smart home technology is changing the way we live and interact in our homes. It seems like there's a gadget or a connected device for just about everything and we're going to explore some of these today to find out how they can make our lives easier and more fun. In this episode, we're looking at how adding technology to your home can save you time, keep you safe and help you have a load of fun as well. Helping us navigate this today is Adam Turner. So Adam is an award-winning Australian tech journalist, he's a corporate writer and a longtime columnist for the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Welcome Adam, and it's really great to have you with us today.
- [Adam] Thanks Val, it's great to be here.
- [Val] So Adam, let's jump right into it, so how would you describe what a smart home is?
- [Adam] A smart home is basically a home where all your devices can talk to each other to make your life easier. Now at its most basic, it's, I guess what you call a connected home. So you can control things remotely, you might be able to turn your lights on and off or turn your air conditioner on and off and usually you do that from your smartphone, and it's pretty easy to set up. But an actual smart home is when you go a bit further, and not only can you turn those things on and off, but this home can make decisions for itself. It's almost like your smart home is your smart digital butler that bosses all your appliances around for you and makes some smart decisions.
- [Val] Right, I see, so it's really not just about these devices being connected, it's actually that there's some thinking or some intelligence behind them to maybe predict the things that you want or to help you out, to make things a little more easier.
- [Adam] I think so, if you wanna call it really a smart home and not just a connected home or an automated home, then yeah, I think there needs to be some element of it making decisions for you, it deciding, hey, it's getting a bit hot and you're gonna be home from work, so you're not gonna turn on the air conditioner, that sort of stuff.
- [Val] Right, I see. Well, that makes sense. And I think that like for many Australians across all generations, our new normal means an increasing interaction with technology in our everyday lives. And there's really a growing interest in smart home technologies that can make our lives more convenient too. So what would you say are some examples of technologies and products that can make our lives easier, but also to even help us have some fun?
- [Adam] Well, smart lights tend to be the easy one, because they're easy to instal, you don't need to rewire anything, you basically just screw out your existing light bulbs, screw in or... bayonet - you've got to make sure he got the right connectors - but you pull out your old light bulbs, putting in new light bulbs, put the app on your phone and set them up and they're good to go. And one of the nice things about that is like all smart home devices, usually you can control from your phone, but the easier way to do it is control them from a smart speaker. You get a Google or an Amazon or an Apple speaker, and you can just talk to that and say, turn the lights on and turn the lights off, and that's great. Just if you've got your hands full, you go into the kitchen in the evening, you wanna make a cup of tea, you make some supper and you wanna turn the lights on and off, you're carrying out a tray of drinks, you just say, "hey, smart speaker"
- and I won't say its name because I don't wanna trigger anybody's smart speakers off - "but hey, smart speaker, turn the lights off". Until you've had that, you don't realise how easy it is to say, "hey, speaker, play the Beatles", or "hey speaker, play my favourite radio station", or "hey speaker, just play some great music". And they learn the music that you like so it's almost like you can have the radio running in the background during the day, but it plays exactly what you wanna listen to. So they're two really good, easy examples. They're not too complicated to set up, but they can really make a difference in terms of making your life easier and also fun.
- [Val] Yeah, that's really true. I mean, I love the fact that you can pretty much have this smart device listening for whatever you might request. These smart speakers, they also, they tap into the internet and that's where your library is, music library and sometimes you can have a choice of over 40 or 50 million songs, it's incredible.
- [Adam] And you don't even necessarily have to pay for that because some of them have free services as well if you're prepared to listen to a few ads. I know my parents have a Google smart screen and they use the free version of YouTube Music, I think it is, and they just ask it to play Frank Sinatra or the Beatles or whatever, and every now and then, it plays an ad and they don't care because they're used to listening to the radio that has ads in it any way. And they think it's fantastic. I gave it to them at the start of lockdown because they were getting a new granddaughter and they wanted a screen for photos and all that kind of stuff, and they use it every day. They really love it.
- [Val] That's really cool. And also, there's some assistive technologies that are great for older Australians too. Like there's smart floorboards or movement activated lighting. Have you seen some good examples of that?
- [Adam] Yeah, there's a lot of that going around because there's a lot of focus these days on, I think the phrase is assisted living. It's basically helping people stay at home for longer and dealing with some of the challenges of that rather than needing to move out. And they are, as you say, there's motion sensors. It's interesting, things like our smart watches have fall detectors in them. So if it's got a little accelerometer in it, if it notices that you fall and you don't get up, it can send a message to somebody or call somebody. There are other things like that that just make it easier for you to just get along with your life and not have to worry so much about those kinds of things, whereas before you might've needed someone checking up on you or you might not have been able to stay at home.
- [Val] Hmm, yeah, and also you've got, you can use your iPads and your laptops to access telehealth, meaning you don't have to go out as often to fill a prescription.
- [Adam] True.
- [Val] And the other thing I really love is these new Bluetooth door locks. So instead of having to remember your keys, all you have to do is have your phone, you can enter a code from your phone and it'll open the door for you instead. So I think that's a great one too.
- [Adam] Yeah, smart locks are great. And there's a few different ways that they can work. It's handy that you can punch in a code or even wave your smartphone on the lock, which might be handy if you don't wanna carry a key around, or you might have a bit of difficulty using keys. But it also means that if you need to give somebody else access, whether it be a nurse or a cleaner who comes once a week, you don't have to give them a physical copy of your key. You can give them a code that just works for them. So, and you can say, all right, this code only works on a Monday morning. So you haven't handed someone a key and they can't copy the key and hand it to somebody else. So that whole idea of having physical copies of your key floating around and losing track of it and then if something happens, you've got to change your locks, that all goes away when you can use a smart lock instead.
- [Val] That's really great. I mean, those temporary codes will just expire after a period of time, you don't have to worry about it.
- [Adam] Yeah. Or you can disable it, you can go, no, that person doesn't come around anymore, push the button, and that code doesn't work anymore. You don't have to get the key back from them.
- [Val] Wow, so easy. I think it's just amazing.
- [Adam] Hmm.
- [Val] Okay, Adam, I'm gonna put you on the spot now and get some real details out of you, so if I wanted to make my home smarter today, like how easy is it to do? And you know, what sorts of things would I need?
- [Adam] I would probably start with a smart speaker that has a smart assistant on it. And it gets a little bit tricky because there's three main options, there's the Google one, the Amazon one and the Apple one. And it kind of comes down to what phone you have and what devices you already use. If you've got an Apple phone and you tend to use Apple devices, I'd lean towards the Apple one, which runs Siri, that you might already know on your Apple devices. And then when you look at other smart devices, it will tell you on the box, which smart assistants they're designed to work for. So think of your smart speaker as the central hub, the central building block of your smart home, and then you buy other things designed to work with that. And the nice thing then is that it doesn't matter if your devices are different brands, as long as they all work with your smart speaker. So you might have smart lights from one company and you might have a smart air conditioner from another company, but as long as they all work with your Google speaker, you can say, "hey, speaker, turn the lights on. Hey speaker, turn the air conditioner on", and it can figure out which app to use and how to make it all work. That's not your problem, you just tell it what you want to happen and then it talks to all the devices to make it happen.
- [Val] Okay, right, so the smart speaker can be my central hub for all of my smart devices in the home.
- Yeah, for sure.
- Okay, great. So with the Google Assistant and the Alexa Echo Dot speakers, for example, what are some of the functions that they can perform, like how do we talk to them and what can they do for us?
- [Adam] Well, you don't have to have any other smart devices to take advantage of these things. They're quite clever on their own. For starters, as we said before, you can ask them to play music or radio or podcast. You can just ask, the weather forecast is a great one, just general questions, what's the weather going to be like today? What time does the local grocers open? Where is the nearest pet shop? Just general queries that you might go onto Google to search for, or pull out the phone book or the street directory. You'd be surprised at how many of those kinds of queries it can just answer for you. And then it can also can check your own, if you've got also say your calendar set up with it, you can ask it what you've got on today. Some of them let you make calls so you could call directly to people's phones, or you might even be able to say, okay, smart speaker, I want you to call the smart speaker at my kid's house or my brother's house. And it will chime up on there and say, hey, there's someone wanting to call you. So they do a lot of jobs. And also not just smart speakers, because you can also get smart screens, which has all the same things as a speaker, but there's a screen in it as well. So it won't just tell you things, it will show you things as well and sometimes you can make video calls to other people. And so it really adds an extra level of functionality, and then when it's not doing anything, it can scroll through your photos.
- [Val] That's cool. I really love the idea of having a screen in your smart speaker so you can say, show me this, and it might show you that video, or like you said, a video call and you can see the other person on the other end that you're talking to.
- [Adam] Yes. It's great for little tutorials and stuff as well, like if you're doing something in the kitchen, a smart speaker can convert cups into grams and stuff like that, but a smart video can also show you a little clip on how do I make the best pizza dough or something like that, and lots of little things.
- [Val] That's cool. I mean, it's, it's good that voice control can make everything easier, but like how good is the technology really? I mean, does it understand your voice? Does it figure out what you want? I mean.
- [Adam] It can be a little bit hit and miss, let's be honest, it's not perfect. Be prepared to get, it's almost like training a puppy sometimes, be prepared for a few hits and misses.
- [Val] Okay, so you might have to be a little bit patient with it then.
- [Adam] The main thing is that you need to speak clearly and sometimes you need to speak slowly and often, it's good to leave a little bit of a pause. So there'll be the way command, "OK, speaker", and so if you wanna say, "OK, speaker, what time is it?", I wouldn't say, "OK, speaker, what time is it?" I'd say, "OK, speaker, what time is it?". And just giving it that little pause to tell the difference between, hey, I want you to wake up and I want you to do something makes a difference. They use what's called 'natural language processing', so you don't have to remember very specific commands. You can ask it 10 different ways, "what's the weather gonna be like today?" and it will kind of figure out what you mean and tell you, but you might find that there's a certain way of phrasing it that works better than others, so you keep that in, like you learn what it likes.
- [Val] Hmm.
- [Adam] And keep it simple. Just say, okay, speaker, turn on the lights. If you say, "OK, speaker, I want you to turn on the lights". Sure, you're being more polite, but you're more likely to confuse it. So just basically be very straightforward, tell it what you want it to do.
- [Val] You know what, I can't resist saying thank you to it sometimes when I use mine at home.
- [Adam] You can say thank you to it. And sometimes it'll say thank you back, and sometimes if you say unpleasant things to it, 'cause it's not very cooperative, it'll say, "please don't speak to me like that".
- [Val] Yeah, there's some great jokes you can ask it as well, like.
- [Adam] Yes.
- [Val] What's the joke of the day, or you could even ask it what its birthday is or whether it has a boyfriend or girlfriend. So you might be surprised by some of the answers you'll get from your smart speaker.
- [Adam] And they have little games and stuff built into them as well. The other day my son was playing like a Jeopardy game where we'd ask the, give him the answer and you had to give the question. You can play little trivia games and stuff like that. And that's worth, if you go online, you'll often find good guides to all the different things you can do with your smart speakers and games you can play and stuff, things that you probably didn't realise it could do.
- [Val] And you know, these things, they're not very expensive either, you can get them for less than a $100 too.
- [Adam] Yeah, for sure.
- [Val] And the other thing we have to remind people is that you do need an internet connection at home. So you will need to have Wi-Fi of course.
- [Adam] Ah, definitely. And yes, you're going to need a home Wi-Fi network, and if you've got internet at home, it doesn't have to be a super-fast one, like you could just have an entry-level broadband connection, that would be enough to do it. And so then that wireless network lets your devices around the house talk to each other and also lets all of those devices connect out to the internet.
- [Val] Hmm, okay, well, good tips. On a more serious note Adam, I mean, what about security risks? Are there any things we should know about when we're using these devices around the house?
- [Adam] Well, with any kind of internet enabled technology, there's always some security risks. And most of that usually comes down to just making sure that you choose strong passwords. Have a strong password for your home Wi-Fi account, and when you create an account to control your lights or to control your air conditioner, make sure you have a strong password for that. And when I say a strong password, you don't use a word that's in the dictionary, you don't use 'Apple' for example, or something like that. You don't use the name of your kids or your pet or your birthday or things that people can easily find out about you. What I find is a good trick when making up passwords... The best passwords are easy for you to remember, but very hard for someone else to guess. So what you actually want is a password that looks like gibberish, but how do you remember a password that looks like gibberish? I like to pick a saying or a tune like, 'Hey, diddle, diddle'. Take the first letter from every word, and that becomes your password. And then you might make some letters in uppercase and lowercase, throw in a few numbers, a few symbols. What you're left with looks like gibberish, but it's very easy for you to remember if you sort of sing along under your breath as you type it in and I find that's a good way to get long and complicated passwords that no one's ever gonna guess, but you won't forget.
- [Val] Yep. So long and complicated passwords will keep us safe. And there's more info about how to keep strong passwords on our Advanced Online Security course on the Be Connected website. Make sure to check out the link that's in our show notes as well. Okay. And what about with these smart speakers listening to us, I mean, can they record us? Can they send our voices somewhere else? I mean, how about that? How do we keep secure and private?
- [Adam] Well, they do listen all the time, but they're only listening out for you to say the wake word. So they're not paying attention. Basically, they're listening to what you're saying and it goes in one ear and out the other until you say the wake word.
- [Val] And the wake word is, "hey speaker", but we're not gonna say the name of the speaker?
- [Adam] Yeah, hey, well, it depends, there are different ones. The Amazon one I find is the most awkward because it's only one word. The name of the speaker wakes it up so it's easy for it to mishear something else, whereas the Apple ones and the Google ones, you need to say "hey" or whatever, and then the name. So you're a bit less likely to trigger it off by mistake.
- [Val] Okay. And so when it's listening, so it's only listening for that wake word.
- And then once it hears it, then it switches on and starts to record your voice.
- [Adam] Well, yeah, but before that, if you have a situation where you don't want it listening at all, they all have a mute button on them that mutes the microphone. So then even if you say the wake word, it's not listening at all and even if you say the wake word, it won't wake up.
- [Val] I see. And some of them even have a light on the top that you know, they're listening.
- [Adam] Yes, they usually do have a light. So it's either, you know, it's listening or you know that it's muted so you can just glance at it and know what it's doing. But when you've got it un-muted and it's listening for what you say, most of them these days try to do most of the thinking on the device and not have to send it back up to the internet to do the processing. And a lot of that is, well, there's two reasons, one, because it's faster to do it that way, but two, because it improves your privacy as well, because what you're saying is not leaving your house. But even when it does leave your house, there is not a person on the other end, listening going, oh, quick, Beryl wants to turn the lights on and pushing them on for you.
- [Val] Hmm.
- [Adam] Like it's all done by a machine, there's not a person there listening. Occasionally they keep sections of the recordings to listen to. It's like when you ring someone and they say, this might be recorded for training purposes. It's the same sort of thing, they can keep little snippets to check, hey, is this speaker doing a good job? If it keeps misunderstanding when people say, this, maybe we better change it. But it's not keeping everything that you say and there's not someone listening in on the background and everything that you say and yeah, more and more of it is handled in the device so it never even leaves your house.
- [Val] Okay. Well, that's comforting to hear. So most of the time, your speaker is only listening for the wake words. And after that, most of the, I guess the thinking of where the device is trying to understand what you want, is done on the device and not sent to the internet. But in the cases where your voice is recorded and sent to the internet, there's not really a person there listening in on you.
- [Adam] No, and often they would be anonymised as well. If they were studying it for accuracy, they don't have your name and address next to that, they don't know who you are, they're just trying to tell whether or not the speaker actually did a good job of fulfilling your request.
- [Val] Right. Okay, well, that's great. You know, there really is a lot to learn about smart homes and smart devices, but don't worry because Be Connected has courses to help you learn all about smart homes and you can find out about different voice assistants and how to use them with smart speakers and other smart devices, including smart TVs. Make sure to check out the link that's in our show notes so you can pop onto the Be Connected site, and there's just lots to learn there. Okay, well, next up, I wear a smartwatch to keep me connected, but these can also be used to do all sorts of things like turning on the lights or reminding us to take medication or counting our steps and reminding me to stand up and be active too if I'm sitting down too long. So what else can smartwatches do to make life easier around the house?
- [Adam] It depends on which smartwatch you have and which smartphone you have. It gets a little bit complicated, but your smartwatch will often talk to your smartphone. Again, if you've got an Apple phone and an Apple watch, Siri, which is its smart assistant, will run on the watch even if your phone's not around. So you can say, "hey, speaker" to the watch "I want you to turn the lights on" or I want you to do this, or I want you to do that. If you've got an Apple phone, but you have a non-Apple smartwatch, you might find there some of those advanced features that it can and can't do, so you need to give a little bit of thought about exactly what you want your watch to do and what kind of phone you have. But yeah, one of the things that most of them will do is they have apps on them that will let you control the devices around your house, so you might be able to, either by touching the phone or speaking to the phone, you might be able to turn your lights on and off and do other things. I turn off the whole, hey, make sure you move every hour because it's my job to sit at a desk and write articles and I do not appreciate being reminded every 60 minutes that I've got however many steps to take.
- [Val] Yes.
- [Adam] But I do appreciate the fact that it can show me how many steps I've done in a day or how many days this week I've gone out for a walk. I find that's really useful, I might gauge at the end of the week and say, well, I haven't really got enough days, I'll try and go for a walk at lunchtime. So I find that you can sort of set the level of how intrusive, how annoying you want them to be. It's like having a personal trainer. Do you want a relaxed personal trainer, or do you want a personal trainer who's really gonna be on your back? It's up to you to sort of tweak those settings. And like I said, some of them, especially the Apple one in particular has a lot of features like the smart fall detection, and then it can call somebody or you can use the watch to just speak to the watch to make calls, even if you can't reach your phone. So there's a lot of advanced features, a lot of stuff that you can do with a smartphone or a smart speaker, you can now do with a smart watch as well.
- [Val] Right, so a good way to think of it, I guess, is a smartwatch is almost like an extension to your smart speaker or your smartphone. So now you may not even have to have your phone near you or even have a speaker near you, it will listen when you ask it to do something and then it can connect you to some of the other devices around the house. So you can ask the watch to turn your lights on and it will do that for you.
- [Adam] But choose with care though. Don't assume that every smartwatch can do that with every smartphone.
- [Val] That's true. So the best thing to do there is to pair brands together, so buy an Apple watch if you've got an iPhone, an Apple iPhone, or maybe a Samsung watch, if you've got a Samsung smartphone, that type of thing is the best thing to make sure you get all of the features supported.
- [Adam] Yes.
- [Val] Yeah, that sounds great. And of course, don't forget too, that smartwatches track all kinds of activities and they can measure your heart rates and they can record that, and even some of them can track your electrocardiogram so they've got very sophisticated sensors on them that you can hand over to your doctor too. So there's some really handy features there as well.
- [Adam] Yes.
- [Val] Okay. Well, let's move on, so what about some of these other smart devices around the house? Say for example, security cameras or baby monitors or other types of TV cameras. Can somebody take them over or hack into them and spy on me? Is that possible?
- [Adam] Generally not if you've got a strong password. Quite often when you hear reports in the news that somebody's hacked into one of these devices, it's usually because people have left them with the default password out of the box, and then the hackers know what the default password is. So they go around and basically it's like having a key and just going around and trying to lock and see which ones it'll work with. But if you change the password to something strong and something that's difficult for people to guess, that goes a long way to improving your security. And not reusing passwords. Don't use the same password for everything because what happens if they find out your password for one service, they'll go and try that same password everywhere else and if you've used the one password for everything, you've basically let them into everything. So make sure you use different passwords for things.
- [Val] Okay, that makes sense. So we want different passwords for all of our different devices, otherwise, if somebody guesses one, they might be able to guess on another.
- [Adam] Yeah, you've given him the keys of the kingdom, they've got everything.
- [Val] Right, all right. Well, every day smart home tech does a lot of cool things, there's no doubt about that, but what have you seen around some of the more interesting or out there applications, especially if you know, money is no object?
- [Val] Well, if money is no object, one of the things, and it depends how much money is no object, but I've always thought that smart curtains was a good idea. A part of it could be just lazy because you're sitting on the couch and you think, ah, I wanna watch television. I wanna put the blind down. "Hey, speaker put the blind down". But smart curtains and smart windows as well are great. 'cause you think about it, especially depending on the size of your house, during the summer or the winter, you spend a lot of the day going around and going, oh, the sun's on that side of the house, now I better pull the blinds down or I'm gonna open the windows, but now I'm gonna go and close the windows, 'cause I'm gonna turn the heater or the air conditioning on. And it's very manual process moving around the house. Being able to say to your speaker, okay, I want you to close those windows or I want you to put that blind up, or put that blind down is great. But like we said earlier, a real smart home can make some of those decisions for you. It can say, okay, well it's summer, it's three o'clock in the afternoon, the temperature is above 25 degrees. I'm gonna put down the blinds on the north side of the house because I know it's gonna start to get hot and you don't even have to worry about it, It'll do it all by itself.
- [Val] Hmm, I love that, it's like having.
- [Adam] Hmm.
- [Val] An invisible caretaker, they're thinking about these things for you.
- [Adam] Exactly.
- [Val] What about other things like a smart washing machine? Do they help?
- [Adam] The bigger the appliance and the more important it is, the more I think you should worry about whether it does the job you bought it to do and less about the smart features.
- [Val] Hmm.
- [Adam] To be honest, like if you're buying an air conditioner or a dishwasher or a washing machine, the kind of thing that you want to last five, 10 years, whatever, and get good value out of, make sure it does the job you want it to do, don't buy a fridge just because it's a smart fridge and then figure out it doesn't actually have enough shelves in it.
- [Val] Yeah. I mean, with a smart washing machine, the smart features usually mean that it connects to the internet and that means you can control it from an app on your phone so it can notify you when a washing cycle is done, when you're not near it. The other thing that's kind of handy is they use artificial intelligence to learn what you do and then they make it so the menu is reorganised to have the stuff that you do most up at the top. That's another feature that I've seen with a smart washer to help your life get a little bit easier.
- [Adam] I like the idea about the remote control and it telling you when it's finished, but also you can set these things to start at certain times, which might be particularly helpful if you've got solar on your house. So you're trying to use the power during the day when it's coming for free from the sun and not at night. You put everything in it the night before, you tell it to come on when the sun comes up and then it sends you a message at lunchtime when it's done.
- [Val] Yeah. An example I've seen is, a house that has both smart automatic window washers. So it has a lot of big glass windows, and these little window washers will go out and clean the outside windows and also a smart robotic mower, which will go out and cut the lawn. And they're all set on schedules and managed through an app. So basically, yeah, you just don't have to worry about cleaning the windows or mowing the lawn.
- [Adam] And there are great examples, as you said before of jobs that as you get a bit older, you might find harder to take care of yourself. And so it makes it easier for you to stay at home and still be able to do the things you wanna do because you don't have to worry about those little things.
- [Val] Well, that's true. I mean, all of this technology is great and everything, but what happens if something does go wrong? Like, can I get locked out of my home if I forget a password or I don't pay the internet bill? Like what could happen here?
- [Adam] Well, smart locks always, okay, maybe not always, often, and this is where you've got to check the description on the box, but smart locks tend to come with a physical key as a backup or some other way to get in, so you cannot get locked out. But they are the good kinds of questions that you should be asking when you look at this technology. How am I gonna use it? What do I need it for? And what do I do if it doesn't let me do the job? And most of the time, if a smart speaker won't play music, that's not the end of the world, But if a smart lock won't let you into the house, that is. So you have to look into what are the backup options?
- [Val] Yeah, because they're all so reliant on your internet connection, if your internet connection stops, you know, what does that look like?
- [Adam] Well, most of these technologies like smart locks would be designed to have a fallback if there was no internet, because the makers of it understand that sometimes your internet drops out and you still need to get into the house. So yeah, the more mission critical it is, and the more you'd be in trouble if it didn't work without internet, the more likely it is that they've built in a fallback. so it can still do the, at least the essentials without internet access.
- [Val] Okay. Well, that makes sense and that's good to keep in mind when you consider your smart home. Well, what about, I mean, we kind of painted a picture of what can happen now in the smart home and the types of things that it can do, but what would the smart home or the future look like if we step forward a few years? How might people live independently for longer, or what are some of the future technology assistants or robots that we can have in our homes?
- [Adam] Well, I think the first thing is that this kind of technology will become more common and will be built into more devices and will just be standard, the same way that airbags became standard in cars. A basic level of connectivity will be built into all of your appliances so your house can automatically control the washing machine, the dishwasher, the air conditioning, and make smart decisions about the time of day that you want to use it, if you're on solar, for example, or a battery when you're using that power. So all of that stuff will become a lot more intuitive and convenient and take care of itself in the background.
- [Val] Hmm, actually, you mentioned taking care of yourself, like what about artificial intelligence? I mean, how does that play a part?
- [Adam] Well, that is part of, artificial intelligence is built into it here because what artificial intelligence will do is it will look at the way you want to do things and figure out the best way to do things. It will make decisions for you on, okay, this is when I'm gonna turn the dishwasher on, this is when I'm gonna run the washing machine, this is when I'm gonna run the lawn mower, hang on, it's been raining so maybe the lawn needs to be mowed a bit more. It's gonna be hot today. I'll turn the air conditioner on early. It can make a lot of decisions like that, and it learns as it goes, and it also learns from your habits. If you override it and go, no, I don't want you to do that, it learns, it goes, okay, now I've learned that you prefer to turn this on in the afternoon and not the morning. So that's where it becomes a smart house and not just a house full of smart devices.
- [Val] Hmm, so even your refrigerator can have a look at what's inside and say, okay, it's Sunday night, you usually have a big meal here, you'd like to cook a roast, you don't have these ingredients. All that information can kind of come together and be thought out, I guess, and help predict what you might need in the future.
- [Adam] Yeah, and a lot of that is about predicting it, the smart home doesn't just do what you tell it to do. It does what you need it to do before you tell it to do it, because it understands what you need.
- [Val] Yeah. And I think that's the real distinction here between what we might have today and what we might have tomorrow is.
- [Adam] Yeah.
- [Val] It's smart and it predicts and anticipates what you want and need to help basically make you more independent, be able to stay home for longer and really just have access to what you need.
- [Adam] And we're seeing a lot more of that in terms of, with the ability to shop online, and this is Amazon's strength, although it doesn't do it as much in Australia as that does in America. But it's good at going, hey, you're running low on this, I'll order it for you, and it'll turn up tomorrow and it'll be free postage. And, you didn't even realise you're out of toilet paper and 'bam', some toilet paper turns up, for example. That's the kind of thing where they've got basic versions of that now, but that will become a lot more sophisticated. And as you say, the fridge will be able to say, okay, you're running low on milk, we've got a grocery shipment coming tomorrow, I'm gonna add milk. So it'll be checking those things for you, like a butler, like a concierge who just goes around the house and sees what needs to be done.
- [Val] It is amazing. I mean, it really does look like we have some really exciting times ahead. And this means that we'll be able to live longer in our homes, be more comfortable, be more secure and have access to whatever we need. Thanks so much Adam for helping us navigate this whole kind of sometimes confusing, and amazing world of the smart home, and what the future might look like. And Adam, really appreciate your time and sharing your insights. And I think he really helped explain to everybody out there just what the smart home can do.
- [Adam] Oh, no worries, it was my pleasure.
- [Val] If you liked what you heard, please subscribe to receive all of the latest episodes and leave a review to help others find us too. And remember to visit the show notes for more information on anything we've covered today. I know we've talked about a lot of stuff, and it includes links to other useful materials too. And lastly, to discover other great topics, go to beconnected.esafety.gov.au. That's beconnected.esafety.gov.au. I'm Val Quinn, and I look forward to your company next time.
- [Narrator] Be Connected is an Australian government initiative developed by the Department of Social Services, the eSafety Commissioner and Good Things Foundation Australia. Be Connected builds the digital skills, confidence and online safety of all Australians with engaging online learning resources and a network of over 3,500 community organisations to support them to thrive in a digital world.
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