The Consumer Electronics Show in Las vegas this January served to highlight that the world has gone nuts for the concept of the smart home, yet Apple – despite having their HomeKits product – do not yet care for the smart home space. Today we’re investigating whether you should hold off investing in a smart home until Apple come to the party, and when this could be as well as everything else that you need to know about Apple HomeKits.
What is Apple HomeKits?
Apple HomeKits is the Cupertino based company’s smart home and home automation product. Essentially it is designed to be the brains of your smart home, an area that is increasingly highly competitive.
Samsung have their SmartThings, Amazon are building their home solution around their Echo product, Google own Nest which includes a central hub and there are a dime a dozen start-ups, as showcased in Vegas this year, who have their hearts set on owning this space. HomeKits is Apple’s play.
So essentially, we have a whole load of ‘smart’ products aimed at the household. There are smart thermostats like the Nest third generation, there are smart smoke detectors (see our reasoning why you may want to invest here), there are wider heating and hot water solutions like Hive, owned by British Gas. Then there are motion detectors and smart alarm systems, like the LG Smart Security Hub. Beyond that, you get a whole world of devices from the Philips Hue smart lighting, through to smart locks, smart cookers, lights, sensors and the likes.
Apple was to take this disjointed world and to connect it up via their HomeKit solution.
Essentially all of the devices listed, as well as over 200 more, all connect to what we call the Internet of Things, and as such are termed as ‘IoT devices’. Essentially, they can talk to disparate apps, via your smartphone, which brings a degree of remote controllability to them.
What the central hub concept, which is being chased by Samsung, Amazon, Google and to some degree, Apple, is intended to do is to act as the central nervous system to this connected world, bringing a degree of standardisation to proceedings.
In much the same way that we wouldn’t want an app for every single website that we visit, nor would we really want an app for every single device in our home. Ideally a form of aggregation would occur, which would make the whole smart home concept that much more manageable.
Home automation should be the Zenith use case for Siri
The other upside comes the overall level of aggregated control offered by having Siri involved in the equation. We all remember the acqusition of the Siri technology by Apple, and its subsequent release into the iOS operating system. The technology was pretty cool, but lacked a true use case. Sure asking Siri to ‘wake you up at 6am’ is mildly quicker than fiddling around in the alarm app, but the use case was a little flimsy. Yet in many ways, the whole concept of a robotic virtual helper becomes so much stronger when you consider the possibility that Siri could help you manage your home.
So when you leave your iPhone plugged in, and the requisite settings enabled, you can hail Siri by shouting ‘Hey Siri’. This opens up the chance to control these interconnected devices by shouting something like ‘Hey Siri, open the blinds’. Or ‘hey Siri, turn the temperature up to 21 degrees’. Or ‘hey Siri, turn off the smoke alarm’. You get the idea, and in many ways this becomes a much more realistic use case for the technology.
Yet Apple have not yet chosen to make a big play into home automation and smart homes
Despite the seemingly natural fit for Siri, Apple have not made a strong foray into this space. HomeKits debuted in 2014, yet over 18 months later, even many of Apple’s biggest fans have barely even heard of it. The smart home revolution is starting to pass Apple by.
This perplexing lack of marketing and promotion could well change in 2016. Yet as it stands, the whole smart home space is entirely lacking the standardisation required for Apple to make a big play into it. We can’t imagine a world where Apple start creating all of the hardware, from locks to fridges to motion sensors, so they instead need the folks making these devices to connect in with their offering.
This is beginning to happen, but HomeKit is half a step behind the pack, and adoption is not seemingl at the front of mind for the manufacturers.
So one of the big questions in the mart home space for 2016 has to be whether Apple will make a big play here, or are they happy to let one of the biggest emerging technology trends of the decade pass them by?
What’s your view? let us know in the comments below.