'Smart' Homes Prevent Illness, Run The Dryer

Smarty-pants, tattle-tale homes may be just around the corner, predicts Diane Cook, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Washington State University. "In the home, the idea is that computer software, playing the role of an intelligent agent, perceives the state of the physical environment, reasons about this state using artificial intelligence, and then takes actions to achieve specified goals, such as maximizing comfort of the residents and maintaining health and safety," Cook writes. Present home-management systems must be pre-programmed by home owners: You need to tell your system when to turn your heat on or off. So far, in fact, may autonomous intelligence advance that tomorrow's homes may need to incorporate software that provides for occupants "to retain ultimate authority to resent the system and to impose restraints that prevent the home from taking undesired or harmful actions.

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