For all of the talk of home automation and ‘smart home’, with major manufacturers like Samsung and now Amazon positively storming at the space – Apple have been somewhat conspicuous by their virtual absence from the space. However the teasers for iOS 10 indicate that could be about to change, and to change meaningfully.
The combination of Apple’s aesthetic designs and devices which are built to be at the centre of the home, should play strongly to the Cupertino based manufacturers hands. Like other manufacturers, Apple see the connected TV as being a logical heart to the smart home. Apple TV is heading towards its 5th generation, and even if the long rumoured Apple TV set is yet to materialise (and likely never will), TV is increasingly important to Apple. The brand new website for Apple’s HomeKit software and its related Home app upgrade indicates that this is not changing anytime soon – and if anything – is about to get seriously fortified.
Interestingly for a company who have always been notoriously ‘walled garden’, choosing to promote their own combination of hardware and software, they are embracing the connected home devices being made by standout manufacturers in this space – including Honeywell (who make the wonderful Lyric Round thermostat), Kwikset (one of the pioneers behind the smart lock space), and the iHome smart plug – all feature prominently on Apple’s new 45 second long video promoting their new smart home capability.
Watching the video, you are shown how smart home tech is increasingly impacting your whole day – from waking up and greeting Siri (which is shown to set off a chain reaction of firing up a fan and switching on a smart coffee machine, aiding you in getting out of your pit) to ‘goodnight’, when Siri then locks the doors, kills the AC and dims the thermostat. The iPhone will also play a major role in Apple’s take on the autonomous home. A simple tap on the screen tells iOS10 that you are home, and that triggers connected devices to turn on the lights, active the kettle and change the temperature.
Apple’s historic reticence to get in on the smart home game is likely linked to a perceived lack of true value behind a lot of the players in the space. For every Nest which adds value, there is a connected kettle, which frankly is seen by many as an expensive and entirely unnecessary step too far. The big question therefore becomes, what have Apple seen to change this perception? The Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this winter was full of smart home gear, and Mobile World Congress which is just concluding has been a similar connected home onslaught – much of it being full of ‘me too’ tech as well products which stretch even their biggest fans to call them truly viable.
We have said it before – perhaps it will take Apple to enter this market, glam it up, show us some simple brilliance and suddenly half the world will pretend like the connected home did not exist before they turned up?