The home is perhaps the latest frontier, in which the Advanced manufacturing sector is taking an interest, particularly with regard to automation and the application of artificial intelligence. Today the new technologies for the intelligent management of the home, also known as Smart Home, respond to the challenges of environmental transformation processes, and ecological transition and adapt to the increasing dynamism of lifestyles. Moreover, the home has become not only the place where energy is consumed to meet the needs of the family, but also the place where energy is produced. The term Smart Home (or home automation) generally refers to the study and application of technologies to improve the quality of life in the home and, more generally, in man-made environments. This highly interdisciplinary area requires the contribution of many technologies and professions, including construction engineering, architecture, energy engineering, engineering management, automation, electrical engineering, electronics, telecommunications, computer science and design.
We interviewed Massimo Marengo, CEO of the Marengo Group based in Alba, Italy, on one of the specific applications of artificial intelligence in the home environment and here’s what he shared with us:
What does your group deal with?
“We started as a company that deals with civil and industrial electrical systems, but now we are an engineering company that deals with energy. We have products, registered trademarks and international patents in the energy field and we have focused on the development and creation of energy at 360 degrees, both civil and industrial, with a strong inclination towards sustainable energy. In particular, one of the companies in the group deals with intelligent energy production systems at home, starting from renewable sources such as photovoltaics. We call this type of home automation applied to energy production Smart Home Energy“.
How did Smart Home Energy come about?
“For a couple of years now, the theme related to the ecological transition has entered the political and common debate, it is not only the prerogative of specialists in the field. So we started to work on artificial intelligence and on the integration of energy processes, with the aim of building self-production energy systems, both for industry and for individuals. Within this scenario, until now, usually, energy production and use systems are isolated from each other. For example, the heat pump, photovoltaic system, heating and cooling are often systems that do not communicate with each other. In 2015, we created the first patent for industrial plants: a multifunction system that intelligently manages the production and use of energy in the industrial field, with the aim of prioritizing renewable energy, ensuring maximum return on investment and having maximum performance. The system is managed by a second-level artificial intelligence that automatically detects electricity and gas prices, thus making decisions based on the data collected to use, produce, accumulate or store energy. No longer plant engineering, but advanced energy engineering.”
How does AI apply in this context within the home?
“Between 2017 and 2018, we started working on a system that would manage the production of photovoltaic energy and how it is consumed within the home. Starting from our experience with the industry, we created a plugin system, with a simple and intuitive interface, based on artificial intelligence developed in Cloud. The system, through specifically produced micro hardware, communicates with all “smart” appliances inside the house and manages them through a level 2 AI, based on weather conditions, priorities that the user selects and in relation to other environmental and context data. In this way, instead of selling energy to the grid – which is increasingly less convenient – it is used as much as possible to run all the appliances in the house. This is the Energy Smart Home we envision for the future. Today you can no longer think of making a system that does not manage energy well, because you risk spending more than you wanted to save”.
What are the challenges of the future?
“First of all, there is the need to unhinge the conservatism of certain operators in the sector who are not aware of the changing world and who are limiting the process of innovation. Now is the time to better distribute this type of technology and know-how to communicate it to all potential beneficiaries. In the future, but this is less about the domestic environment, we talk about developing hydrogen production and storage systems that are with the production processes and all their dynamics”.