AI & Automation….it is already “among us”

First up, ceveat that I’m a bit of a tech geek so my “daily life” is perhaps not a fair representation of society. However, automation is something I’ve been using for many years now and am excited to see how more intelligence in the systems can enhance that in the future. 

When did it all start? Back in 2015/2016 my automation was quite limited, I was (and still am) a big fan of Sonos speakers and related systems. I also had the Nest Protect smoke alarms and was starting to utilise some early smart plugs and smart bulbs for my lighting. Using IFTTT (If This Then That) I started creating simple automations, for example, if my Nest Protect detected smoke (or Carbon Monoxide) it would turn off my music and, if between sunset and sunrise, turn on the lights. Almost 10 years ago, this was amazing to me…..less so to my family! 

Nest Protect review - The Verge

Best Sonos speakers 2023: Which one to buy | CNN Underscored

Another automation, very specific to me, is capturing data about my running. I run 6 days per week, recording via AppleWatch and sharing via Strava. I wanted a way to simply track my mileage, distance per month, year, etc. Whilst I could pay for Strava and get many of these things (and more), I really wanted a good old Spreadsheet. Using IFTTT again I was able to create an automation which detects a new activity on Strava and export the details into a CSV file on Google Drive.  From there I can analyse in Excel and visualise in PowerBI. 

Power BI - Data Visualization | Microsoft Power Platform

Then came the launch of Amazon Alexa in late 2014, though not available in the UK until 2016. This brought a simple voice interface to my automation so the entire family could interact with my automations.  

Fast Forward to today and we have an Alexa device in almost every room and use it for everything from turning lights on, giving the cat a drink from her running water bowl, to checking how long the dishwasher has left. 

However, none of this is really intelligent; it is clever and it is automation, but definitely not leveraging artificial intelligence. I want it to learn more about my daily life and organise things for me. Two simple examples where combining automations with greater intelligence would help me: 

  • Knowing I had started a run on my Apple Watch and therefore checking that there was enough hot water in the water tank (via Hive) so I can shower when I get back.  
  • GPS detecting that I had pulled up on the drive on my motorbike (because phone is paired to the motorbike) and opening the correct garage door for me. Equally, doing the reverse (closing the garage) when I leave. 

These are still very mundane and not exactly “sci fi” and I think that is the point. The media hype around AI is all robots and computers taking over the world, but in reality it is just about further enhancing the way we interact with systems and services. Noone is “scared” the fact that when you start up your TV Streaming Service (NetFlix, Disney, iPlayer, etc) it recommends shows and movies based on what you have watched in the past and what others have watched who have common viewing patterns to you.  

This is AI…….it is already among us!!! 

About the author

Kevin Linsell

CEO at IJYI, started career researching Photonics and IP Networking at BT before expanding knowledge in technical, management and director roles across Computacenter, Adapt, Timico and QA. Addicted to running, tech gadgets and motorcycling.