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Across the land: Age of the robotic butler



PHUKET: Robot butlers could soon be seen in modern homes. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly building an artificial intelligence system to operate and control his entire home, and the system will apparently be ready to perform a demo in the very near future.

When we think of butlers, we usually envisage a man traditionally dressed in a white-wing collar dress shirt with a grey vest, black morning coat and pinstriped trousers, topped off with a black tie and white gloves.

As times have changed along with shifting social trends, the roles of a butler have also evolved. The primary role of traditional butlers has always been to attend to the needs of their employers. That has not changed in modern times but has evolved to include household management as well.

These days a butler can organize, manage and operate all aspects of the household in an efficient, stable and cost efficient way – whether for a single professional, a couple, or a family living in one home or several homes.

Many of us will never be in a position to hire a real-life butler to attend to all our needs, but robot butlers could soon become an affordable alternative.

Controlling lights, temperature, locking doors and other tasks in your home are all part of the smart automation making its way into modern homes. Apple Inc has created a framework called HomeKit, which allows developers to create such smart products that can be controlled via an iOS app either from within or outside a user’s home.

Imagine coming home to an already cool home after a day in the blistering 43-degree heat. The front door automatically unlocks and opens as you approach, then closes and locks behind you once you are safely inside.

Among the ‘smart’ home accessories that can be controlled by an iOS device emerging now are lighting appliances, switches, plugs, locks, sensors, heating, cooling, shades and more.

After pairing an accessory with the iOS device, the accessory can be controlled with voice commands to Siri, such as ‘Turn on the lights’ or ‘Dim the lights – set the brightness to 50 per cent’, or ‘turn on the coffee maker’.

More complex commands are also possible, such as ‘set the temperature to 24 degrees’. The set-up can be customized for specific zones or rooms. Then you can use commands like ‘turn on the upstairs lights,’ or ‘turn off Adam’s light’. Or perhaps, ‘turn on the printer in the office’.

You could even have a customized setting for the command ‘dinner party’ or ‘goodnight’.

Fully-fledged smart homes are yet to arrive in Phuket, but it is definitely something that developers should be planning for as a future need of home buyers.

When home buyers look for a new home, they expect innovation and new products. New technologies incorporated into a new home will surely be a must-have. Home automation is already here, so the robot butler is sure to follow soon.

So the next time you are buying a new home, as well as the usual questions about price, location and proximity to the nearest school or supermarket, you might want to ask the developer or real estate agent about its operating system too.

Amy Koh is the sales manager of Engel & Voelkers Phuket. To contact Amy or for more information, visit

— Amy Koh


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