Home Amenities 2.0: Virtual Butlers at Your Service


After a long day at work, you could return to a home where room temperature is perfect, music is playing softly and lights are dimmed. You just need to add a cup of hot tea or a glass of wine and relax because your home could now have a brain. Smart hubs receive and send signals that can adjust your lights, change the temperature, brew your coffee and much more.

As a family living in 2063 in a futuristic utopia called Orbit City, the Jetsons might have seemed light years away from us. But the cartoon family’s lifestyle seems to already be upon us. Intelligent home automation systems continue to push the limits of the Internet of Things. Not only can you control your home, but you can also set commands that help your devices learn and then automatically react to your schedule. For example, a team of Transylvanian software developers recently used virtual interactive kinetic intelligence to create VIKI Knows, an integrated home automation system equipped with artificial intelligence. No remotes, buttons or dedicated control equipment needed. The system simply imitates human behavior, learns your habits and your preferred home settings without your intervention.

Using a home server that orchestrates the communication between all electronic devices in your home, VIKI utilizes Wi-Fi and sensors. As for home security, the sensors installed on doors and windows alert you in case you forget them open when leaving home or preparing for sleep. The system includes fire and flood sensors, lighting control, multimedia, weather forecasting, heating, shading control, irrigation and artificial light, an organizer, a digital library and security. Moreover, there is surveillance monitoring, and windows and doors are constantly scanned to check if they are closed. With the access control feature you can open or close the door with your smartphone .

In 2017, the VIKI Knows team integrated voice commands into the application, with the help of Amazon Echo DOT. The new feature allows users to reduce the necessity of phones or tablets and just use their voice in order to control the intelligent home. In the near future, VIKI will be improved with several new features—a virtual agenda, alarm clock, a function that enables continuous tracking of weight and another one that sends you notifications whenever you walk by a store and need to buy something you previously wrote down on a virtual shopping list. Furthermore, the MnemoniQ function could be available in hotels or offices and enable you to activate your home preferences anywhere you are. For now, the VIKI system is available for sale only in Eastern Europe, but developers are currently looking for dealers in the U.S.

Home sweet automated home

Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, believes that by 2022, a typical family home could contain more than 500 smart devices. According to their Smart Home 2015 report, security and personal safety is the main reason Americans and Canadians would purchase a home automation system. Lower energy costs through smart monitoring and control, as well as the usefulness given by automation itself, also are reasons people consider when deciding to install such an intelligent system in their homes.

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The future or just a passing fade?

Currently, smart home tech is one of the hottest trends in the multifamily industry, especially for luxury communities. These systems have the potential to create value for renters and help real estate owners and managers differentiate from competitors. While it is true that it is early for the multifamily market, this smart technology has all it needs to become indispensable in the future. Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Homekit and Samsung SmartThings are among the most attractive smart home systems currently used to boost the IQ of an apartment and attract renters. They can all be controlled with an app and some even with voice commands.

Some real estate companies have already installed different intelligent home systems in their communities. Kromer Investments completed a Class A, 288-unit luxury apartment project in Reno, Nev., at the end of 2015, known as the Villas at Keystone Canyon. Recently, the owner decided to add smart home automation systems in 50 units. The platform entails smart locks, thermostats and light switches, all connected through a Parakeet app.

Other investors are skeptical about integrating smart technology into their developments because it requires a significant investment, and it is hard for them to keep up with technology changes. It’s an ongoing challenge in determining what technologies are the right fit to incorporate into any development to create greater NOI.

Video courtesy of VIKI Knows

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