Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Programming the smart home: ‘If this, then that’

29.04.2014

Homes already have intelligent devices beyond the TV remote — garage door openers, coffee makers, laundry machines, lights, HVAC — but each has its own arcane steps for programming. User research now shows that “trigger-action programming” could give users a reliable and simple way to control everything, as easy as “If this, then that.”

The idea of a smart home sounds promising enough. Who doesn’t want a house full of automated gadgets — from light switches to appliances to heating systems — that know exactly when to turn on, turn off, heat up or power down?


I’m up. Where’s the coffee?

The idea is to provide owners with an easy way to program all domestic devices. The “IF (this) THEN (that)” trigger-action approach has been shown to work for users who are not programmers. View YouTube Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNVQcs5yCZg

But in order for all those devices to do what they’re supposed to do, they’ll need to be programed — a task the average homeowner might not have the interest or the tech-savvy to perform. And nobody wants to call tech support just to turn on a light.

A group of computer science researchers from Brown and Carnegie Mellon universities may have found a workable programming solution. Through a series of surveys and experiments, the researchers show that a style of programming they term “trigger-action programming” provides a powerful and intuitive means of talking to smart home gadgets.

The research was presented today at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI2014) in Toronto. The work was co-authored by Blase Ur, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, Brown undergraduates Melwyn Pak Yong Ho and Elyse McManus, and Michael Littman, professor of computer science at Brown.

The trigger-action paradigm is already gaining steam on the web. It’s used perhaps most prominently on the website IFTTT.com (If This, Then That), which helps people automate tasks across various Internet services. Users create “recipes” using simple if-then statements — for example: “If somebody tags me in a Facebook photo, then upload it to Instagram.” The website interfaces with both service providers, and the action happens automatically each time it’s triggered.

“We live in a world now that’s populated by machines that are supposed to make our lives easier, but we can’t talk to them. Everybody out there should be able to tell their machines what to do.” Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown UniversityIFTTT.com started out as a tool to link websites, but it has recently added the capability to command a few internet-connected devices, like Belkin’s WeMo power outlet and the Philips Hue lightbulb. That got Littman and his team thinking perhaps the trigger-action model employed by IFTTT might be a good fit for home automation.

“As a programming model, it’s simple and there are real people using it to control their devices,” Littman said. “But the question we asked in this paper was: Does it work for the [home automation] tasks people want to do, or is it perhaps too simple?”

To find out, the researchers started by asking workers on Mechanical Turk, Amazon’s crowdsourcing marketplace, what they might want a hypothetical smart home to do. Then the team evaluated answers from 318 respondents to see if those activities would require some kind of programming, and if so, whether the program could be expressed as triggers and actions.

The survey responses varied from the mundane (“start the coffee pot from the bedroom”) to the outlandish (“I would want my home to be able to shoot lasers at intruders.”). A majority of activities people wanted — “Notify me when my pet gets out of the back yard” or “Start brewing coffee 15 minutes before my alarm” — would require some kind of programming to get the devices on the same page as the user. Most of the programming tasks fit nicely into the trigger-action format, the survey found. Seventy-eight percent of responses could be expressed as a single trigger and a single action. Another 22 percent involved some combination of multiple triggers or multiple actions.

The next step for the researchers was to see how well people could actually design recipes to accomplish tasks. To do that, they used two interfaces designed by McManus, one of the undergraduate researchers, and enlisted Mechanical Turkers to make recipes with the interfaces.

“We based both [interfaces] on ‘If This Then That,’” McManus said. “But then we made one of them slightly more complex, so you could add multiple triggers and multiple actions.”

The study showed that participants were able to use both interfaces — the simpler one and the one with multiple triggers and actions — fairly well. Participants who didn’t have any programming experience performed just as well on the tasks as those who did.

Taken together, the researchers say, the results suggest that trigger-action programming is flexible enough to do what people want a smart home to do, and simple enough that non-programmers can use it. Melwyn Pak, one of the Brown undergraduates on the project, finds that encouraging.

“People are more than ready to have some form of finer control of their devices,” he said of the results. “You just need to give them a tool that allows them to operate those devices in an intuitive way.”

Littman, who has been studying end-user programming of electronic devices for several years, agrees.

“We live in a world now that’s populated by machines that are supposed to make our lives easier, but we can’t talk to them,” he said. “Everybody out there should be able to tell their machines what to do. This paper is our attempt to start thinking about how to bridge that gap.”

Kevin Stacey | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2014/04/smarthome

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht The Flexible Grid Involves its Users
27.09.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Optical fiber transmits one terabit per second – Novel modulation approach
16.09.2016 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New welding process joins dissimilar sheets better

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...

Im Focus: First quantum photonic circuit with electrically driven light source

Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.

Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

European Health Forum Gastein 2016 kicks off today

28.09.2016 | Event News

Laser use for neurosurgery and biofabrication - LaserForum 2016 focuses on medical technology

27.09.2016 | Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

New imaging technique in Alzheimer’s disease - opens up possibilities for new drug development

28.09.2016 | Medical Engineering

Innovate coating extends the life of materials for industrial use

28.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Blockchain Set to Transform the Financial Services Market

28.09.2016 | Business and Finance

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>