In the near future, artificial intelligence will help to create smart buildings capable of predicting our needs and reacting accordingly.
If you follow technology news, you know that sooner or later artificial intelligence is going to revolutionize… well, pretty much everything, and one of the most impacted industries will be construction. From hospitals to kitchens to structures on the moon, AI and learning machines will change how things are built, and – more importantly – how we live.
While we are still years – even decades – away from true AI, the type of AI you see in the movies that can actively learn and grow on its own while making decisions for itself, learning machines capable of analyzing data and improving because of it are much closer to reality. It really is just a matter of time until they saturate all aspects of our daily life.
Some will help us to solve the greatest problems facing the world, some will help us to colonize our solar systems. But perhaps the most common form of AI will be those that live and work with us side by side, including those that control the structures we live and work in.
If you want to see a practical example of how technology can change and improve our lives, look no further than the construction industry and the structures being created today and in the near future.
Whether it’s a small structure a few stories high or a skyscraper that reaches the clouds, modern commercial buildings are becoming increasingly sophisticated within and without. New materials are being used alongside new techniques, allowing designers and builders to create structures that weren’t possible even a few years ago. And the insides of those buildings are changing to match.
At the moment, new structures are built with consideration given to things like Wi-Fi and Ethernet wiring, something that would be alien to builders 20-30 years ago. Buildings are also more climate controlled than ever before, and many are constructed to take advantage of renewable energy. Some are even constructed specifically to benefit the environment. In the future, construction will also need to take AI into account.
Large and small commercial structures will soon all be smart buildings, connected and capable of sharing data throughout the structure. The purpose of the building will influence the exact nature of the structure, of course, but in general you’ll soon see conference rooms with touchscreens for walls; windows that automatically tint when directly struck by the sun, while some windows actually contain invisible solar cells that generate energy; some rooms may even be modular, offering the ability be reformed and change based on the needs of the users. It’s all coming very soon.
The list goes on, and soon learning machines will take that concept to the next level. Even proto-AI learning machines will immediately change how we view buildings.
Buildings will have algorithms running that track the people coming in and out without the need for huge monitoring centers. That will help with security, but it goes beyond that.
Imagine walking into a building where you have a meeting, and as soon as you cross the threshold your phone beeps, giving you directions on where to go and how to get there while simultaneously alerting the building’s tenants that their next appointment is on the way. Once you arrive, your preferred beverage of choice will be waiting for you, and music that you like might be playing as you wait. Pair that with something like AR glasses, and the smart building can actually send visitors messages as they walk around, highlighting different businesses, even telling them things like what the specials are in the lunch room.
Once true AI arrives, the buildings will become even more sophisticated, making decisions for us on things like climate control and energy usage. For buildings generating their own energy, the AI will also regulate the output and check for any unnecessary energy loss. If people are leaving their lights on, the AI can turn them off if no one is there. It could also handle fire prevention, and in the case of an emergency, monitor an evacuation with more precision than a human could. And that’s just the start.
Some of these advancements are already on the way, while others are a still a few years out, at least.
You’ve probably already heard the expression “smart home” tossed around. At the moment, it tends to refer to homes that are connected through either a local server or the cloud, which allows residents to do simple things like control the lights from their smart device or turn on the heater/AC remotely. Current smart homes are an impressive addition to the residential landscape, but they are also just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Within the next few years, learning machines will become standard additions to new homes. It will take longer to retrofit older structures, but the houses built over the next several years will be connected in a way that will seem like a sci-fi film comes to life.
For example, at some point you may no longer need to set your thermostat. Tracking sensors will determine your comfort level using thermal readings and other physical indications, then automatically adjust accordingly. Forget to turn the oven off? Don’t sweat it, your house will do it for you. Want to record a TV show? Just tell your house. Automatic kitchens are already in development, and imagine one day watching a TV show and walking from room to room as the program automatically jumps from TV to TV to keep up with you.
A few years after these advancements become commonplace, you’ll be able to walk into your home and simply tell it what you want it to do. Simply shout out what you want for dinner, then ask it for suggestions on TV or have it resume a show you were already watching. If you prefer music, the AI could even determine your mood based on body language and your tone of voice, then play music matching your current temperament.
Take that a few steps further and connected houses may actually connect to other houses. Maybe you live in Portland and your family is in San Francisco and Dallas. You could simply say “Connect me to Mom,” and you’d be talking to your mom anywhere in the house. If you want to include your sibling just tell your house to add them to the conversation and they will be able to join in while wandering around their house.
Come Christmas time, you could even all connect your houses, turning one entire wall/screen into a viewport to your distant family. You could talk to them as if they are in the same room, open presents and thank them “in person,” and even settle in to watch a movie together, with the house AIs synching the video so everyone is seeing it at the same time.
Give It A Few Years
While AI and learning machines will almost without question have a major impact on the way we live our lives, we’re still a few years away from living in a sci-fi movie. The technology is still very young and relatively primitive, and even if you could get your hands on a sophisticated learning machine, the costs would be prohibitive for most people.
Within the next few decades, however, that will change. And our lives will change with it.