Michell Prunty is Semico's Senior Consumer Analyst.  See her bio here

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Michell Prunty's blog

How Swarm Intelligence will Take Over our Lives

Swarm intelligence is a type of crowd intelligence, like what is seen in ant or bee colonies, where each member of the colony tends to work independently at a particular task and then contributes their particular knowledge to the collective, and the group reacts as a whole. 

For example, ants may have guards, health monitors, food gatherers, childcare monitors, etc.  When any one group hits an alarm, (Food is low! The Queen is dying!) the entire hive reacts appropriately because they come “programmed” with the knowledge of what their next task should be. 

In effect, this is where the Smart Home is going.  With lights, sockets, hubs, speakers, security, curtains, appliances, etc, the Smart Home is becoming a swarm of input sensors where each sensor will be able to react based on input from all other sensors. 

For example, in a Smart Home, if the sensors are activated, i.e.  a window is broken or the inside temperature is not ideal, then the entire home will react appropriately.  The alarm will go off and the security alerts will be sent, the heater may automatically go off to save energy, the lights may go on, and the home owner’s phone alarm alerts them to the situation.  Each segment of the home will come preprogrammed with the knowledge of how it should react based on the particular information supplied by the hundreds of sensors around the home. 

Terrifying Robots: Part 8

The next robot is a lawn mower.  Of course.  Because what robots really need is a fast rotating 12” cutting blade

(source: CNET)

Like many of the robots in this series, this little LawnBott looks like a cute little toy on first glance.  In fact, it looks a little too small to be a useful tool, and at $2,800 its probably not going to be used by my neighbors.  

Thank goodness. 

As with other consumer-orientated robots, this little creature uses apps and a smartphone for controls and scheduling.  Though it seems a little sinister that its so quiet you can schedule it to mow your lawn at night.  As Tony said, the Tuilleries Garden in Paris uses goats to cut their grass.  If its good enough for them, its good enough for me.  

BTW, do you have some sheep?  My lawn needs a mowing.

Terrifying Robots: Part 7

What sorcery is this?  Watch this video, and see how fast these little robots can move.  If we were playing a game of capture the flag, I’d report this robot as, well, a robot.  (Flag capture and return in 5 seconds?! Hacking!)

What is our obsession with creating robots that can build things?  Have none of you seen The Terminator?

Now consider, I don’t know if you’ve read Google’s terms of service, but basically they’re creating Skynet.  Sooner or later, someone is going to combine Google’s Skynet with all these robots, and the next day we’re all going to wake up in the Matrix, in a perpetual state of 1999, because according to these bots, human civilization peaked before the rise of smart phones.  

Think about it, we’re going to live in a simulation without smart phones.  

Talk about terrifying.  

Crowd Funded: Seriously? A Toothbrush?

When most people talk about the connected home, they tend to scoff at different product ideas.  Take this Smart Toothbrush, on Kickstarter.com.  Most of us would probably roll our eyes at the idea of a connected toothbrush, yet it still has over 20 days to go to fundraise, and yet its already funded ($87K at the time of this writing). 

So what makes this product so special that people are willing to spend $99 - $200 USD on a toothbrush?  

Well, first of all, its sleek and minimal for an electric toothbrush.  There are no bulky parts that stick out, so for aesthetics alone, this is a winner.  Second, this company really focused on the application, or the “why” we need this type of product.  They created not just graphs that show our brushing habits, but games for children that make brushing more fun in general.  

And if you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve struggled with getting your kid to brush their teeth regularly

Third, if you’re in the market for an electric toothbrush, its relatively affordable.  While you can find some electronic toothbrushes for about $40, there are also many that are $100+.  

PG&E: Zero Net Energy

The second guest keynote speaker at Semico’s Smart Lighting IMPACT event  was Carolyn Weiner,  Manager, Core Products, from PG&E, where she spoke about the zero net energy goals PG&E has for California and what that means for the industry.  

Perhaps expected, PG&E is focused on a “greener” future.  Perhaps unexpectedly, their goal is to reduce power consumption in CA by 60% by 2020.  And even more astounding, they’re seeking to have all new residential construction in CA be zero net energy by 2020, and all new commercial buildings being zero net energy by 2030.  These are lofty goals, but if anything this conference showed us, they’re entirely possible with the right leaders behind the effort, because the technology is readily available today. 

And if you think this isn’t important, keep in mind that lighting alone in CA makes up about 25% of the energy load in the commercial building market. 

The road isn’t going to be easy.  There are several stumbling blocks along the way. 

A few challenges PG&E is investigating include: variability in energy savings across different types of buildings, interoperability, the technical expertise required to install, and proper commissioning. 

So what is one major aspect PG&E thinks builders should focus on in order to reduce energy?  Daylight. 

Cisco: The Industrial Internet of Things

Last week’s Semico IMPACT event was full of interesting speakers discussing the Internet of Things and how Smart Lighting is the “Trojan Horse” of connectivity and intelligence.  Our first guest keynote speaker of the day was Prasanna Venkatesan,  Vertical Business Solutions Leader, IoT Group,  Cisco. Hecame right out and said maybe we shouldn’t be focusing on the residential Internet of Things because there are too many shakeups in that market segment.  Instead, Cisco sees more initial opportunity in the Industrial Internet of Things. 

But first, some lighting statistics.  One fifth of the world’s global electricity usage is from lighting, which equals about 70% of the world’s passenger vehicle emissions.  That is why lighting is such an important market to focus on, especially LED lighting, which has the potential to reduce the US lighting energy consumption 50% by 2020. 

Cisco expects that LED lighting will have 52% of the market by 2021.  Now, couple that with the fact that most lighting today is analog, and the market is ripe for a “digital disruption.”

Terrifying Robots: Part 6

This robot is a mix between adorable and terrifying.  Its slow, almost ponderous crawl forward before it pauses to split open its head and do a little twirl before withdrawing all its limbs and rolling down hill...only to show that on flat land it can easily chase down a little kid.

No I'm just kidding, theres nothing adorable about this thing.  In fact, are you with me in thinking that with the high pitched noise its making, we're looking at the first generation of Screamers? 

Reduce Energy Consumption with Intelligent Lighting Systems

In the United States alone, the Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2011, we used 461 billion kWh to light our residential and commercial properties. That equals about 12 percent of the total electricity consumed in North America.

Our first response to these numbers is to reiterate to ourselves that we should be turning off the lights when the rooms are empty. But that really depends on the light bulb you have installed. For example, with an incandescent light bulb, you have a 90 percent energy loss when it’s on, so keep that thing off as much as possible. Halogens, too, should be turned off whenever possible. Yet, when it comes to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), they can consume more energy by being turned on and off than by just staying on, depending on how often you turn them off (Hint: If you’re coming back into the room in 15 minutes, leave it on).

The recommendations are confusing, and if you’re like me, you don’t pay attention to the type of light you have in the room. And maybe, like me, you hear your father’s voice yelling in your head to “turn off that light” every time you leave the room. Bad advice, since now I’m turning on and off my hallway CFL light bulb a few dozen times a night as I pass in and out of rooms.

Terrifying Robots: Part 5

You know what I just love about this pole dancer?

No, not the jazz hands.

Not the outfit either. 

The dance? It does dance better than I do, but no. 

What I love is that it has facial recognition software so it can pick out the people in the mirror and stare intently into their eyes while it does its thing. 

This is especially so creepy because its devling into the "uncanny valley," a phenomenon that happens when a creation looks very close to human, but there is something "off" about it, that makes us uncomfortable. 

(source: CNET)

Terrifying Robots: Part 4 - Because Tennis Used to be Boring

Have you seen this video?  I think this robotic arm is mocking Timo Boll.  And I guess this is ping pong, not tennis, but now I really want to watch a robot compete in a tennis match.  Its all I've been thinking about, all day.  

Did he cheat at the end?  I don't know the rules of ping pong, but that's my hypothesis.  

It'd be interesting to see an actual match when the robot has a learning system built in.  And by "interesting" I mean "amazing, someone do it now." 

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