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Connected Homes September 2019 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Christian Feest

Ambient Intelligence

Why is this topic significant?

Recent technological developments are laying the groundwork for ambient intelligence in the home. In addition to providing convenience, comfort, and safety, ambient intelligence could also help occupants achieve long-term goals.

Description

Advances in both hardware and software within the connected home are paving the way toward the possibility of ambient intelligence—a connected-home environment that both senses and responds to occupants' needs and intentions without prompting. "Connected Homes for Improved Health" in the June 2019 Viewpoints describes the early stages of development for a specific application of ambient intelligence—improving occupants' health—but the potential applications of ambient intelligence are far broader. For example, sophisticated ambient intelligence could serve to make occupants more comfortable, entertain occupants, and perform domestic chores—all autonomously and without prompting. Instead of control via conscious inputs—for example, from light switches or smart speakers—ambient-intelligence systems anticipate and sense occupants' desires.

Although such highly sophisticated ambient intelligence is likely several years away from commercialization, several developments that previous Viewpoints cover describe enabling components of ambient intelligence. These components and the dates of their appearance in Viewpoints include:

Implications

On the software side, ambient intelligence requires advances in artificial-intelligence systems to enable context recognition and personalization. For example, an AI would need to distinguish between occupants, remember their personal preferences, and dynamically interpret their mental state in order to anticipate and deliver personalized outputs. To achieve this functionality, an ambient-intelligence system would likely need a very large data set, which would come from connected hardware devices such as cameras, microphones, environmental sensors, and even furniture. Consequently, advances in sensor hardware could accelerate ambient intelligence. For example, the development of smaller and more energy-efficient smart cameras would make data gathering for AI systems less expensive and more capable.

Ambient intelligence is likely to require always-on camera and microphone monitoring, which may raise privacy concerns for some customers and slow ambient intelligence adoption. However, manufacturers may alleviate privacy concerns by using appropriate data-processing methods. For example, local computers may process video feeds and extract only the relevant features before transmitting data for remote processing.

Impacts/Disruptions

Sophisticated ambient intelligence would affect many aspects of the home. For example, ambient intelligence could save energy by turning off lights and other electronic devices when no one is present. Similarly, ambient intelligence may prevent household accidents, such as overflowing a sink or overcooking a meal, by automatically turning off appliances when necessary.

Further, ambient intelligence could increase convenience by anticipating occupants' short-term wants and needs. For example, an ambient-intelligence system that learns a user's food, entertainment, and political tastes could provide the user with personalized meals, movies, and news articles according to the user's preferences and mood. Perhaps more important, ambient intelligence could also help occupants achieve more long-term goals. For example, a user could specify a desire to go to bed on time or read more books instead of watching TV, and ambient intelligence could then provide behavioral nudges that help the user achieve these long-term goals.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 10 Years to 15 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Artificial intelligence, software, user interfaces, construction, appliances, sensors

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

All-In-One Connected-Home Subscription Packages

Why is this topic significant?

Google and other players in the connected-home market could be looking to replicate Amazon.com's Amazon Prime all-in-one subscription package. Attracting customers to subscribe to all-in-one subscription packages yields several advantages for businesses.

Description

Amazon's Amazon Prime service is perhaps currently the most comprehensive example of an all-in-one connected-home subscription package. The features of an Amazon Prime subscription include expedited package delivery, a TV-streaming service, a music-streaming service, cloud photo storage, and lower prices for certain products on Amazon.com. These features have attracted more than 100 million Amazon Prime customers worldwide. Subscription costs vary between regions but, in the United States, customers currently pay $119 per year for a subscription. Market analysts have estimated that global Amazon Prime memberships generate over $10 billion in annual revenue for Amazon.

Google, Amazon's closest competitor in the connected-home market (at least in Western markets), currently offers no service that is directly comparable with that of Amazon Prime. However, Google may be laying the groundwork for a similar all-in-one connected-home subscription service with Google One. Announced in a Google blog post in May 2018, Google One is currently a monthly subscription service that gives customers extra cloud data storage across Google products such as Gmail and Google Drive. Google One's prices range from $2 per month for 100 gigabytes of storage up to $300 per month for 30 terabytes of storage. In addition to mentioning the storage component, Google's blog post also mentions that Google One customers will receive extras from other Google products, such as credits for Google Play and discounts on hotels that customers find through Google search. The blog post also says Google will "be adding more benefits over time." Further, in August 2019, Google announced it is giving all Google One subscribers a free Google Home Mini smart speaker.

Implications

Google owns several platforms and services that could incorporate into Google One to form an all-in-one subscription package to rival Amazon Prime. Google owns YouTube, for example, and expanding its YouTube Premium service could put YouTube in more direct competition with Amazon Prime Video. Similarly, YouTube Music already challenges Amazon Music Unlimited for music streaming. Further, although Amazon is currently far ahead of Google in retail, Google Shopping and Google Express could form a retail and package-delivery component of Google One to further attract subscribers.

Impacts/Disruptions

Whether or not Google One becomes Google's all-in-one subscription package, Google and other major players in the connected-home market are likely developing such subscription packages. Amazon's Prime service generates substantial and reliable revenue for Amazon. Further, in addition to all-in-one subscription packages that directly affect revenues, these packages are likely to increase revenue indirectly by helping manufacturers lock customers into their proprietary ecosystems. For example, Amazon Prime customers will be far more likely to buy Alexa-compatible devices, and Google is already attempting to attract Google One customers into its connected-home ecosystem by giving out free Google Home Minis. However, pursuing such tactics very forcefully could potentially lead to antitrust cases further down the line.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

E-commerce, delivery, media, electronic devices, video streaming

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: