Perhaps you’re already using your iPhone to tweak your thermostat, fiddle with your lights, check in on tonight’s supper, keep your houseplants adequately hydrated, and program your air conditioner as part of an effort to help curb those heart palpitation-inducing summertime electric bills.
Or perhaps you’re not.
Whatever the case, Apple has now officially entered the connected home game with HomeKit, a software platform included in the upcoming release of iOS 8 that will serve as a central hub for all of the disparate home automation apps you might use on a daily — or not so daily — basis. Apple's much anticipated — and somewhat subdued — entry into smart home territory comes several months after competitor Google dramatically burst into the market with the acquisition of thermostat-revolutionizing Silicon Valley start-up Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in cash.
Essentially, and excuse the somewhat creaky analogy, HomeKit serves as one of those universal TV remotes so popular back in the era of remote caddies and controller-cluttered coffee tables. Imagine your iPhone or iPad’s ever-growing arsenal of home automation apps as separate remote controls. HomeKit, which will allow developers to integrate different apps with different functions into a single framework, essentially transforms your device into a single remote control so that you don't have to individually open multiple apps. (To be clear, HomeKit will not function as a standalone app).
Siri, the benevolent personal assistant who resides within your phone, will also play into the new feature — instruct her to turn on the porch light and fire up the window unit while you’re en route home from work and she gladly will.
During HomeKit's unveiling during the keynote of Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi described the platform as a “common network protocol with secure networking to ensure only your iPhone can open your garage door or unlock your door." Federighi also pointed that with HomeKit, all of a household's connected devices can be grouped together as the user sees fit. Instructing an iPhone or iPad to “get ready for bed” would result in the lights being dimmed, the thermostat being lowered, and the doors being locked if they weren't already.
And while details on the nuts and bolts of HomeKit are somewhat scant at this point, Apple has indicated it will work with numerous partners to launch home automation devices that are specifically marketed as being HomeKit-certified. This way, consumers won't have to second guess a product's compatibility with their iPad or iPhone. Honeywell, Philips, iHome, Netatmo, Haier, Cree, Osram Sylvania, and August, the company behind Yves Béhar’s buzzy, soon-to-be-released Smart Lock, were a handful of the companies mentioned during the WWDC keynote.
Nest Labs, famously founded by Apple expats Tont Fadell and Matt Rogers, was not included on the list.
“We are excited to be part of the next step in making home automation a reality, in a safe and integrated way. HomeKit will allow us to further enhance the Philips Hue lighting experience by making it simpler to securely pair devices throughout the house and control them using Siri,” explains Eric Rondolat, CEO of Philips Lighting, in a press statement issued by Apple.
Smart home geeks, any thoughts on this news? Was the development of a framework that seamlessly brings together various connected home apps with various functions into a single, user-friendly "remote control" indeed a smart move on Apple's part? Or would you have liked to have seen Apple enter the smart home market with something grander, more aggressive?
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