What are Intelligent Systems?
Intelligent Systems can be seen as software and/or hardware that can adapt to different environmental changes. They can learn from past events, plan for future events, and even strive to obtain goals. Algorithms that are used to create systems that learn are usually studied in the area of Machine Learning. Many common algorithms include neural networks, support vector machines (SVM), decision trees, supervised learning, and unsupervised learning. It is a very interesting area of study that is a basis for research in data mining, natural language processing, and many others.
What are Smart Homes?
The research area of smart homes has mainly centred around assisted living for people with disabilities and the elderly. This research centres around the idea of activity recognition which is also needed for smart energy conservation. The degree of activity recognition needed still is an open question. See Home Occupancy Agent for more details.
In my opinion, smart home energy conservation has largely been ignored as an intelligent system. Household energy consumption is being looked at in the context of the smart grid. However, this research relates to more the electrical utility rather than the consumer. The vast majority of research in energy conservation has been in generation, storage and industrial/office usage. Automation companies largely focuses on scheduling because of the predictable nature of industrial and office usage. The home, however, can be dynamic and unpredictable in nature; the usage for one house to another cannot be simply compared. A person’s life style, whether they have kids, if they rent out a part of their house, how the heat/cool their house, and much more all contribute to the inability to compare one house to another.
What is Eco-Sustainability?
Eco- Sustainability is finding was to sustain our environment so that humans and all other living creatures on our planet can continue to live. If a critical number of species because extinct (due to our consumption and pollutions of planetary resources) then there will be adverse effects on humans that may also cause human extinction. I think Philip Sutton explains it best on his webpage. He writes, “[there are] two core requirements for ecological sustainability: (1) the diversity of life and the basis of its productivity must be maintained; and (2) society must organize itself so that this is easy to achieve.”
What is Eco-Feedback?
Jon Froehlich presented The Design of Eco-Feedback Technology at at CHI2010 where he defines eco-feedback as “[a] technology that provides feedback on individual or group behaviors with a goal of reducing environmental impact”. He adapted his definition from [1, 2].
Eco-feedback needs to provide more; by this, I mean that is must convey information that is understandable to the average homeowner with having them talk a course or being an engineer or being a technology geek. For example, the graph on the left will not do. How can you provide basic feedback that can persuade and be understandable? Abstract visualizations might be the answer to this along with the the communication of relative performance. For instance, comparing an average days consumption to the amount consumed within the last 24-hours. It is above or below? See Elements of Consumption for more details.
Put it all together…
There are an number of home automation technologies out there (e.g. insteon, z-wave, zigbee) and a number of home automation products that tie these technologies together. But unlike businesses, scheduling and remote access (to turn lights off or on) is not smart; rather, it is connected. What is smart still needs to be explored, researched, and developed. This goes for feedback technologies, as well. This is my goal, this is the focus of my research.
My area of interest is applying Intelligent Systems as part of the solution for creating a smarter home; not just a connected one. My research involves creating Smart Homes to: (1) aid in achieving energy conservation and sustainability while keeping in mind human-home interaction and occupancy comfort, and (2) the promotion of self-reliant living for seniors and people with disabilities. The former (1) can be seen as a subset of the latter (2), so more of my initial research will focus on an intelligent platform to solve (1) but is extensible to be a part of the solution for (2).
A Short Biography of Stephen Makonin
I am currently on professional development (PD) leave to study for my Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Science at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Before my PD leave from British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) I was as a full-time researcher at the applied research Technology Centre (TC) researching the Smart Grid in the areas of system and web architectures, home area networks (HAN), and embedded systems.
My areas of research interest include: eco-sustainability, eco-feedback, intelligent systems, and sensor networks.
My areas of interest in intelligent systems include: rules, logic, neural nets, artificial life, distributed intelligence, and evolutionary algorithms.
- Holmes, T. G. Eco-visualization: combining art and technology to reduce energy consumption. Proc. ACM Creativity and Cognition, 2007, 153-162.
- McCalley, L. & Midden, C. Computer based systems in household appliances: The study of ecofeedback as a tool for increasing conservation behavior. Proc.APCHI, (1998), 344-349.