A good example is the simple cooling or heating controller in your home or office. The resident sets a target temperature for the home/ office. The cooling or heating regulator has a sensor that measures the temperature in the room, and switches on and off the heating or cooling apparatus to match the target.
While, such sensors have existed for a while, the new paradigm in form of NEST machines are focused on setting the target itself. The NEST machine learns from longer term behavioural patterns and adjusts the target based on time of day, day of week automatically, while trying to conserve power.
Now, the next generation of automation is upon us as well. With self driving cars (https://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/), that will drive themselves to farmbots (http://farmbot.io) that will grow our vegetables, it is clear that the future is upon us and will perhaps transform or even disrupt previously existing business models.
So what has changed?
The first thing that has changed is that computing has become cheaper, faster and more power efficient. You have your smartphones as well as gaming machines to thank for that. Many of the same technologies that have made mobile smartphones and gaming consoles more capable and durable, have given rise to smart and fast processing computers that can react, run complete operating systems and programs as well as learn from patterns better and faster than before.
So what happens when a previously manual task becomes automated. It creates more leisure time. When cars start driving themselves, as well as ride hailing services like Uber take off, people will start planning travel as time which can be productively put to other uses. We will perhaps see large malls with huge parking spaces disappear, or put to more productive uses. Home delivery services like Amazon will further reduce the demand for retail space, though one should not reject the notion that Amazon could create browsing stores for its merchandise. However, this will be replaced by social settings where people can come and work or meet each other.
Another important aspect will be reduction of household travel budgets. However, more automation will also mean reduction of paying jobs. So we may see a rift develop in high paying jobs for people with advanced degrees and low temporary jobs for a significant part of the workforce. Lowering costs of services will perhaps mean that overall quality of life will still be better than today.
We should see many conventional businesses struggle for fat margins they have been used to, or in many cases disappear entirely, unless they adapt to changing needs and demands.