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Smart homes in South Africa. The possibilities

Smart homes in South Africa. The possibilities

You are in a rush as you leave your house in an attempt to make your flight on time. You forgot to close the garage door and switch off the lights inside the house, but it is too late to go back home. Simple solution, you open your home automation app to access your smart home on your smartphone, close the garage door and switch off the lights. Technology has done it again! It has made your life simpler and safer which is important in today’s South Africa.

I am continually being surprised as to what we can automate in our homes, converting ‘dumb’ homes into smart homes, even in South Africa. And after reading this article I am sure you will want at least one of these automation gadgets as a feature in your new smart home.

Smart homes in South Africa. The possibilities
You can automate just about anything

What is home automation, really?

Home automation is a convenient way of operating certain elements within your home such as your TV, air conditioner, underfloor heating, doors, washing machines, driers, ovens and much more. All of these elements are operated using a smart device such as your smartphone, laptop or tablet.

The technology behind automation of smart homes allows you to operate your home from anywhere in South Africa, or the world, as long as you have sufficient internet connection. When you begin to equip your home with these types of product marvels it is almost as though your home has graduated with a PHD in home management whilst other homes have only just left school.

Imagine this

To give you a more tangible idea of how smart homes can operate let’s imagine for a minute that you have jetted off from South Africa and are on your dream holiday on a distant, remote island somewhere. There you are, lying on the beach in the hot sun, soaking up the rays and flushing away the stress. Not expecting a call your phone suddenly rings. You need to unlock the front door of your home to let in a family member or friend who is looking after your pets in your absence.

They forgot their key again and are standing outside your house in the pouring rain. Without a moment’s hesitation, and keeping very calm, you simply pull out your smart device, open your smart home app and select “Open Front Door”. Voila, they in, wet but happy and so are your furry friends.

Automated door locks
No more getting caught in the rain

You are able to allow whoever you want to access your home without having to leave a key under the mat or be there in person to unlock the door. There is so much that can be automated in your home and unlocking doors from thousands of kilometers away is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Some cool smart home features available in South Africa

Before we get into the fun stuff, let us take a brief look at how your smart device is able to connect to something like your front door in the first place. There are two types of systems:

  1. Wireless automation systems:

Wireless smart home systems make use of internet connected devices and are often easier and less costly to install. You do need to make sure though that your wifi router can handle the bandwidth needed to connect multiple devices at the same time.

2. Wired automation systems:

Wired smart home systems use hard wiring to connect the system to a central hub within the house, which is then connected to your fibre internet.

A wired system is often more reliable, however, it can be more costly to install. On the bright side, it may be that installing this technology will increase the value of your home. According to Barclay’s Mortgages ‘Digital Homes Report’ the demand for smart homes fitted with this type of technology is on the rise, even in sunny South Africa.

Both wireless and wired fibre internet connections are available from us here at RocketNet. You can check your coverage here and we can hook you up in no time.

Now for the fun features

Besides being able to open locks and switch lights on and off from anywhere in the world, home automation is beneficial in the long run if you are looking to save money. How? By your home automation system learning your patterns of behavior.

Your smart home devices will be able to learn your daily routine and adapt accordingly to any changes in that routine. For example, if you wake up at 6am every morning, your smart home will know at what time and which lights to turn on and when to turn them off again. It will know at what time you will arrive home from work and prepare for your arrival by turning on any outside lights that you might need to be able to see in the dark when trying to find the keyhole at the front door. You see, no more leaving outside lights on the whole day wasting electricity.

smart lights
Smart lights even with different colours

Smart homes make life a bit safer

Your smart home can even tell you when there is motion being detected around your house. If somebody is at your house that shouldn’t be there, then a smart security system can send you a notification to your smartphone. You can then login to the security cameras, in real-time, to see what’s going on.

From saving money with lights being switched off when you forget, to beefing up your security and staying safe you can see how using smart home technology can save you some cash and buy you peace of mind at the same time, which is priceless. These are just two of the many reasons for your home to go ‘smart’.

Remember that personal safety is one thing but digital safety is another. When you set up all your smart home devices in South Africa make sure that you have strong passwords on all of them.

If that’s a bit boring, then check this out

Okay, boring, automated lights and security, that is so 2019. Well, did you ever imagine that you wouldn’t have to cut your own grass anymore? There is such a thing as automated lawnmowers. With its own docking port your smart lawnmower can mow your lawn at the click of a button.

Automated lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners
Smart lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners

Need the house to be vacuumed? Well, your smart vacuum can do its thing whilst you are kicking back watching your favourite Netflix series. You can even feed your pets treats at night while you out on the town.

If that still doesn’t sell the idea of smart homes to you (we don’t earn commission on any of these products by the way) then I don’t know what will.

The smart place to start

If you are looking at getting started with automating your home, your best bet is to go check out Siri and Amazon Alexa. These are two of the most popular virtual assistants that function using AI (artificial intelligence) technology. These devices operate as a hub for all the smart devices you purchase and that are compatible. For example, you can say, “Hey Siri switch off my bedroom lights”, or “Hey Alexa boil the kettle for me”. Unfortunately, you will still need to get up and pour the water into the mug.

Alexa and Siri
Alexa and Siri smart home hub

The future of smart homes and buildings is very interesting, even spanning into smart estates. Soon, homes, cars and buildings will be able to cross communicate with each other opening up another dimension of possibilities.

In winter, your office building will be able to tell your car to start and warm up because you are leaving the office to make your way home in the next five minutes. Your home will know how far away you are from getting back from the office and can begin to run a nice warm bath for you, having received the instruction from your car. Your office will turn off all the lights once everyone, including Elvis, has left the building.

The costs of home automation may look daunting at first, but the end result can be well worth it. It introduces simplicity into a stressful lifestyle. A smart home is a fun home, the only question left to answer is, how smart is smart enough?

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Artificial Intelligence. Friend or Foe?

Is artificial intelligence friend or foe?

What we know.

Artificial intelligence, otherwise known as AI, is the ability of computer systems and programmes to carry out tasks that would normally require engagement and execution by human beings.

One thing we know, which may not be common knowledge, is that artificial intelligence will allow computer systems to function as if they were human, yikes! This includes making use of human senses, and as strange as it might seem, this is actually becoming increasingly possible.

AI already exists and is operational all around us. Think of AI as a machine that is self-aware, meaning that the machine can interpret and react to things based on the senses it perceives. Artificial intelligence will also allow computers and machines to think and function for themselves.

I know this may sound like you are living in a sci-fi series on Netflix and that’s because this is becoming more and more of a reality. But don’t panic, the advancement of artificial intelligence is not entirely what you think. AI is not going to be an army of robots from ‘The Terminator’ that are going to walk around and take over humanity. AI takes the form of many different types of technology, not just the form of robots.

Is Artificial Intelligence, Friend or Foe?
AI isn’t out to get us

The different types of artificial intelligence

1. Reactive AI

Reactive artificial intelligence is one of the first types of AI to be invented. Reactive AI has pre-programmed answers to certain inputs.

These machines cannot learn from previous responses and they cannot generate new behaviour based on past experiences. An example of Reactive AI would be when you dial a phone number and there is a pre-recording asking you which department you would like to speak to. Personally, I find those recordings really annoying and would much rather speak to a human.

2. Limited Memory AI

Limited memory artificial intelligence is different to Reactive AI in that it can learn from previous data and apply it to future scenarios. It can be taught to identify scenarios and learn the answers to those scenarios. Systems like Siri and Alexa are examples of limited memory AI. They have pre-programmed responses but they can also learn new things.

Limited Memory AI is currently the most utilized form of AI. Self-driving vehicles such as Elon Musks Tesla cars use Limited Memory AI.

Limited memory AI
Cars like Tesla use Limited Memory AI

AI that is currently under development

1. Theory of Mind AI

This type of artificial intelligence will be able to learn and understand humans. It will be able to identify and differentiate between different types of human behaviour and personality.

2. Self-Aware AI

This is the ultimate form of artificial intelligence. At this stage, AI will be conscious of the fact that it is a computer or machine and may also be aware that it has the capability to outsmart humans but, maybe that’s a blog for another day.

Elon Musk has warned against developing artificial intelligence too fast to a point where AI becomes self-aware. Self-aware AI will have the ability to reason, respond with speech, argue, and ultimately make its own decisions. It will have its own thoughts, emotions and needs, much like a human. The danger is that the AI favours itself over human life and could potentially see humans as a threat to its existence (cue eery music).

Self-aware AI
Self-aware AI

There will be two types of Self-Aware AI:

1. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

This will be AI that is able to function on a level equivalent to humans. This type of AI will be able to communicate with humans on an intellectual level and function completely independently from human intervention.

2. Artificial Superintelligence (ASI)

This is what will be known as the most intelligent entity on earth, super!. Far more intellectually capable than any human. ASI will be able to solve complex problems on its own. AGI will not even come close to how advanced ASI will be.

In conclusion

These advancements in technology create both excitement and uncertainty to humankind and our future. The technological advancements that will come with the progression of AI are probably unimaginable at this point in time.

I am hoping though that this technology will be put to good use, for example, in medical advancements. Imagine an AI system that can diagnose a serious disease within minutes and then develops the best and most effective treatments for that disease.

AI is an incredible concept that could change the trajectory of civilisation for the best, or it could be to the detriment of civilisation. Only time will tell but until then let’s just relax.