Measuring the real benefits of connecting your home appliances

For Mike Aldred, head of robotics at Dyson, the development of artificial intelligence is about identifying real benefits and freeing up the home owner’s time


Dyson may be best known for cordless vacuum cleaners but the innovative tech company has released several top of the range products in recent years. Latest iterations have included hairdryers, fans and lighting but all indications are that there is a lot more to come – including plans to connect consumer products in the home.

To find out more we spoke to Mike Aldred, head of robotics at Dyson, about the benefits of artifical intelligence (AI) in the home.

Mike Aldred, head of robotics at Dyson
Mike Aldred, head of robotics at Dyson

He also explains how connected machines will make people’s lives easier by minimising or removing day-to-day tasks, freeing up the consumer’s time for other pursuits.

Dyson has always been about the idea of clean: clean carpets, clean hands and clean air. But what is the benefit of having connected machines in the home?

The connected home is critical for us. We’re looking to turn our entire portfolio into connected products. That’s not just for the sake of connecting them; if we connect a product it’s because we’ve identified a benefit it can offer the consumer. For us, innovation is about applying the engineer’s effort in intelligent, well-targeted ways.

What is the benefit of AI in the home, over and above simple connectivity?

One of our main areas of focus for AI is to develop a product that can adapt the way it performs to the environment. The product will end up tuning its performance to what the customer wants as opposed to just being the same product that everyone gets.

The Dyson Link app
The Dyson Link app

Take an autonomous vacuum cleaner, for example. The Dyson 360 Eye connects to the Dyson Link app, gives the user a map of where it has cleaned in the house, allows app control and helps with troubleshooting and tips.

But for me, the ultimate goal is for the consumer to not know what their robotic vacuum cleaner looks like. This would be because it identifies their habits, when they are and aren’t in the home, and cleans accordingly. It would learn from previous experience how many times a week it should clean, and on what setting.

For Dyson, connectivity is ultimately about easing the cognitive load rather than simply adding a different way of interacting with a machine.

How will AI make our lives easier in the home?

At the moment, connectivity is technology-driven rather than benefit-driven. There are lots of incredible technologies out there, but could you say our lives are now easier? I would argue no.

At the moment we’re taking a step back and asking, “what functionality does connecting products genuinely provide for the consumer? And what’s the best way of implementing that capability?”

Engineering machines to learn from feedback and from their experiences is definitely a step in the right direction. Allowing machines adapt their behaviour to your lifestyle means that you don’t have to tell it what to do or when to do it, because over time they will learn.

There will be those who argue we will lose the human touch, what do you say to that?

I completely disagree. The benefit of autonomous machines is that they free up time for the user to do the things that machines cannot do – spend time with friends, care for family members, have fun.

Take hospitals or care homes for example. Advancements in robotics and machine-learning should help machines to adapt and provide a better service, giving nurses and care workers time to spend with patients and do the human-to-human jobs that only we can to do.

The benefit of a robotic vacuum cleaner that would learn from experience, for example when it encounters a problem, is clear. But why is machine learning and connectivity important for air purification?

The Dyson 360 Eye
The Dyson 360 Eye

Anticipating the problem is important when it comes to air purification. Why tackle a room full of poor-quality air when you can begin to purify once the machine detects an air pollution event, even if only a small one? And like vacuum cleaners and other machines, the better it can respond to feedback and learn from previous experiences, the more intelligent it will become to cope better with those challenges.

It’s very much about equipping machines with the intelligence to adapt themselves, so the user doesn’t even have to think about it.

For more information on Dyson connected products, visit Dyson.ie