New Delhi: In Blade Runner 2049, the protagonist Officer K has a holographic artificial intelligence (AI) companion called Joi, who comes alive when he presses a control console on the wall. Joi can light e-cigarettes with her finger and even cook food for Officer K. Similarly, in The Fifth Element, a taxi driver played by Bruce Willis lives in a tiny, modular South Brooklyn studio, which houses an automatic pull-out bed, a cigarette machine that reminds him to quit, lights and music that wake up when he does, and even a moving shower/fridge compartment.

Much as we would wish, today’s so-called smart homes are no match for the ones in these sci-fi movies. Rather, we seem to be taking baby steps to get there. For instance, the Seattle-based smart home system of Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates can identify a person and his location in the house, and dim the lights in a room automatically, based on that person’s previous light preferences.

And two years back, Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he aimed at building a “simple AI to run my home—like Jarvis in Iron Man" (bit.ly/2hASYlW). Turns out that Tony Stark’s home is much smarter than that of Zuckerberg.

Making your home smart. The availability of smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, has made a basic level of smart home tech accessible to users in India.

Anubha Sinha, a team leader at US-based Sovereign Heath Ltd’s Gurugram branch, uses her Google Home Mini to play music from Google Play Music or the Saavn app installed on her smartphone. “Both my 10-year-old and 4-year-old sons use the Google Home Mini to dance to the tunes of their favourite songs without going through the hassle of surfing the Net."

Users can also control a wide range of electronics using Echo’s voice assistant Alexa. For example, users can now control smart lights from Philips and Syska, smart plugs by Oakter and TP-Link (users can switch on any device in the house that have been plugged in using them) and Smart TVs by Sony. Users can also get live feeds from their smart home cameras by Ezviz and D-Link on Amazon’s Echo Spot speaker.

Samsung’s Family Hub, priced at 2.8 lakh in India, can show what is inside the fridge on the smartphone and can connect to the Samsung Smart TVs allowing users to mirror the TV screen on the fridge’s 21-inch screen. In the US, it provides access to a wider range of options via Smart Things services, allowing users to control other connected devices such as thermostat, or smart bulb on the same Wi-Fi network using the touchscreen on the fridge.

The Samsung FlexWash washing machine allows users to operate and monitor the machine from anywhere with their smartphones. Xiaomi’s Mi Air Purifier 2 can also be controlled remotely with a smartphone. D-Link’s DCS-P6000LH Mini HD smart camera (₹2,995) can connect to home networks, provide live feeds on smartphones and even alert users upon detecting motion in front of the camera.

Are smart home devices easy to set up? “The smart home devices that work with Amazon Echo speakers are very easy to set up and control with Alexa, and can help customers simplify their lives tremendously. Customers can even set up routines to automate a series of customizable actions using a single voice command," says Abhishek Bhatnagar, senior product manager for Smart Homes at Amazon India.

Smart homes, though, can be hacked and the privacy of smart devices can be compromised (bit.ly/2v8SubC). This may prompt smart users to think twice before waking up their smart devices in their smart homes.

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