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Home Control Assistant Newsletter for Feb 6 2022

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.
This week I’m going to really jump into the deep end of the pool of ideas rather than talk HCA or automation hardware. But it was only last week that I gave you all a new HCA update, new hardware support, and a boffo status panel. So, let’s all think expansively this week. We can go back to the merely possible next week.

Control, automation, and then what?

I was thinking about all that my “smart home” does, and it needs to do so much more. Let’s review. Control is well covered. I have a 24/7 HCA client, I have mobile apps, I have Alexa. I can control my lights and heating using any of them when I’m home and when I’m not. Also, I have automation that controls more than one device integrated into some plan. Most of this is done using HCA but over time Alexa will get smart enough to do most of it.

But that’s just not good enough. I want an “assistant” that learns my needs and acts on its own. 

What I’m about to go into I know has profound implications for privacy and security. I am mindful of the potential misuse of this kind of technology but let's just go with the thoughts for now.

Let’s start simple. I want my assistant to be always listening to what is going on. I don’t mind using the “wake word” but I want intelligence in the system to understand what I want without that. When I ask my partner to turn on the lights, I don’t use their name. I want to say “lights” and they go on if not already on. More than that I want the “assistant” to make decisions based on always listening and learning from that over time. I want it to hear that I’m working in the kitchen and turn on my kitchen music without being asked. Then know when there is conversation in the room and turn down the volume. I want the system to “see” I’m going to bed and set up the house for the night. Not necessarily by vision but perhaps by actions I take that can be tracked - like turning off the TV in the media room and going upstairs. This only is useful if the “assistant”, when responding directly or on its own, bases its actions upon who it is responding to and where they are. 

Beyond simply responding to circumstances, I want it to make suggestions. Over time the “assistant” will learn what I watch on TV, and when something it thinks I will like and is about to be available, it can suggest it. And that suggestion needs to be made understanding my situation – so not when I’m in the bathtub or sleeping. I’m not suggesting a simple system built from an if-this-then-that tree, but over time the “assistant” gets to know each family member and actions become tailored to their likes, dislikes, their activities, and needs. Perhaps the assistant also needs to watch my activity on the internet to see what I do. I’m a “weather nut” and check weather data many times a day. It should know that.

I think much of this is doable with several components. We need great voice recognition and production. Alexa and Google already have this. Knowing where everyone is harder but with video pattern recognition that should be possible especially as it only must disambiguate between a small set of people. This implies sensors in each room. It needs controllable devices so that the assistant can see what I do and over time learn my patterns and act on its own to control my home. For the “assistant” to learn to make all this possible, Amazon and Google have put tons of money into “deep learning” so this must be possible.

I want my family to include an “Assistant” who can be an observer, communicator, and most importantly a learner. Otherwise, its all just control and simple automation.

Yes, I know, for some people - maybe including you - this is the essence of a dystopian future. But not for me.

As an aside, several months back in one of my messages I talked about creating a set of HCA programs that “learned” over time a sequence of actions and then used the starting action as a trigger to play it back as needed. Admittedly, that is a very great distance from what I just discussed but it is a start. I’m going to return to that over the next weeks.


 
If you are using a version of HCA prior to version 17, you may have questions about the wisdom of upgrading to version 17 given the future of HCA. Here is something to consider:

The support policy for older HCA versions has been changed
 as I can no longer devote time to past version users. Support will only be available for HCA 17 users.

If you are on version 16 or earlier and want to continue using the cloud features and want to be assured that if you have a question that it gets answered, it is indeed time to upgrade.

HCA is fully operational for several more years so the update cost, spread out over that time, is very little. Knowing support is available when you need it is worth it.
Upgrade to HCA 17
Anyone who is using Hubitat with HCA – not SmartThings – please drop me a note as I would like to add you to a discussion list for those users. I have some Hubitat ideas that I would like to “kick around” and it would help to have a group of users who have experience with Hubitat. Please just send a note to the regular support address saying you would like to be added to that discussion list.
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