Ask someone how artificial intelligence drives smart home technology, and they will likely mention interactive voice assistants. Cueing music and lighting on command are certainly innovative, attention-grabbing features. But as Mason Hall, director of marketing, smart water technology, at Moen, puts it, machine learning is the unsung hero of AI.
Machine learning looks for patterns in data and uses it to draw conclusions; once the algorithm gets good at drawing the right conclusion, it applies that “knowledge” to new sets of data to increase accuracy and performance. Hall points to the Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff, a core component of Moen’s whole-home smart water ecosystem, known as the Moen Smart Water Network, as a prime example: The innovative shutoff system monitors and protects one’s home by automatically stopping water at the home’s main supply line when it detects a leak. Its existence—like all Moen Smart Water Network technology—stems from providing an innovative solution to a critical problem. The problem in this case: Families suffer catastrophic water damage more often than fire and theft, combined—seven times more likely, to be exact. That inspired the creation of a “smart” shutoff valve that continuously monitors water pressure, flow rate, and ambient temperature using sensor technology. The innovative solution? The Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff.
The Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff anchors the Moen Smart Water Network for the entire house, gauging the volume of water at the main and tracking where it is subsequently used. Its ability to monitor whole home usage and proactively react to any leaks provide peace of mind, an ever-increasing value to homeowners, particularly those living in regions of water scarcity. From there, Hall notes, the benefits of the Smart Water Network “fishbone out to the entire house” through a portfolio of Moen products that provide added functionality and features, given that “water’s an integral aspect of almost any room.”
Take the Smart Faucet with Motion Control, where the objective is to improve how you interact with water in your kitchen. Sensor technology enables hands-free control with the wave of one’s hand—including temperature control. Additional functions—enabled by voice assistant technology and a smartphone app—include setting the precise temperature and dispensing the exact amount needed for cooking and baking. Hall says it has influenced human behavior by changing how people interact with their faucet, as many no longer even use the handle.
Then there’s showering, which consumes the most water in a typical household aside from flushing toilets. Hall notes that the Moen Smart Shower system encourages conservation by warming the shower to your desired temperature, then pausing the water flow until you’re ready to get in. However, it is primarily about elevating the act of showering itself. “A homeowner can preset temperatures and preferred fixture use for their shower so they get a perfect shower experience with a touch of a button, providing a spa-like experience,” he says. “And the system will maintain an exact water temperature—no adjusting needed.”
Moen Smart Leak Detectors provide further benefits. These stand-alone devices can be placed anywhere potential water issues might occur outside the pipes, from laundry room leaks to attic roof damage. Should one, for instance, detect water on the floor near a toilet, it will not only alert you, but also automatically notify the Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff to stop the water flow in the house. “At its core, the Moen Smart Water Network allows homeowners to see, understand, and control the water that’s in their walls,” Hall says. “So now your house is even more protected.”
“DESIGNING FOR WATER”
Hall likes to say that Moen is “designing for water” and that this singular focus means they’re constantly striving to improve the user experience with it. Yet, he maintains, the industry “hasn’t truly innovated around water in a hundred years” to bring real solutions to major problems—until now. And that’s where he sees great opportunity to apply machine learning, knowledge, and design.
For instance, Moen has released a series of products that not only are smart on their own, but also take machine learning to the next level when working together. For example, if a homeowner has both a Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff and a Smart Faucet, the new Burst Protect functionality will stop the flow of water at the main water supply if it senses freezing temperatures, while the faucet purges water from pipes. Meanwhile, Health Protect will detect if water has sat stagnant for an extended period; if so, it will run for two minutes hot and two minutes cold (per CDC guidelines) to alleviate potential bacterial buildup and water-borne diseases in the pipes.
At the end of the day, Hall understands that customers don’t want to sacrifice design for the sake of technology. That’s why Moen is committed to offering their smart fixtures in a variety of designs and finishes to suit varying tastes. For instance, the Smart Faucet comes in more than 15 different styles, and Motion Control technology is available on select models. And a handful of models are even designed without a handle entirely. “We take much pride in the elevated style of our faucets and fixtures,” Hall says. “In some products today, the technology can be intrusive. At Moen, we make sure that the consumer never has to trade style for smart.”