iOS 8’s HomeKit puts Apple at heart of home automation

Craig Federighi talks up Apple's home automation plans. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Craig Federighi unveils Apple’s HomeKit home-automation initiative. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

In the not-so-distant future, we’ll use smartphones to control nearly everything around our homes. We already have smart light bulbs, thermostats, locks and appliances, but we lack a central platform for all these devices.

That’s all going to change this fall when Apple releases iOS 8 with HomeKit, an important new protocol for developers. This will create the kind of universal platform that could revolutionize home automation.

“Apple is creating a tighter and tighter cross-device ecosystem between computer, phone, TV, tablet, and ‘the internet of things,’” Aaron Watkins, CEO of app marketing company Appency, told Cult of Mac.

The rapidly expanding home-automation business is expected to hit $48 billion by 2018, according to a recent estimate. HomeKit is Apple’s bold bid to place itself at the center of that market by changing the way we interact with all smart devices, from security cameras to refrigerators.

Currently, if you have connected lights from Philips, a thermostat from Honeywell and a SmartKey from Kwikset, they all require their own apps and protocols. You cannot turn down your lights and turn up the heat with just one app.

HomeKit will change that. Apple is already working with leading makers of home-automation devices — including the companies mentioned above — to develop a centralized platform for home automation. HomeKit brings the same protocols and security measures to all your connected devices and allows you to control them all with just one app.

And it won’t simply mimic the way traditional remote controls work: HomeKit will work alongside Siri to give iOS users the opportunity to control connected devices using voice commands. Moreover, HomeKit will allow grouping of devices, allowing us to control multiple things at the same time.

When you arrive home from work, for instance, you could tell your iPhone “I’m home” and HomeKit could automatically open your garage door, unlock your front door and turn on your living room lights. A “get ready for bed” command could lock the doors, turn down the thermostat and activate your alarm.

Making home automation easier could help boost the adoption of connected devices — at least that’s what some hardware providers are hoping for.

“Apple’s entry into the smart home market will undoubtedly raise awareness with consumers, which will be advantageous for Revolv and other startups in the market,” said Mike Soucie, co-founder of Revolv, creator of a smart home hub. In a statement to Cult of Mac, Soucie said he thinks Revolv will be complementary to Apple’s offering and his company looks forward to working with Cupertino to “enhance the smart home user experience.”

Others see HomeKit as an opportunity to take home automation further and introduce new technologies that may not have been possible without such as platform.

“Any initiative that brings the concept of home automation to a wider audience has to be welcomed,” said Tennant of Cyberhomes, a home-automation company based in the U.K. “It took longer than many expected for the iPad to be adopted as a recognized interface by major brands such as Control4 and Crestron, but now they are fully embracing it. HomeKit should allow these and other manufacturers to bring new technologies and features to the market.”

While HomeKit is Apple’s first foray into home automation, it isn’t an attempt to compete with Google and Samsung for a share of the home-automation hardware market. That could happen in the future, but right now, it’s all about improving the experience for those with existing devices.

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About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the UK. He has an interest in all things tech, but most enjoys covering Apple, anything mobile, and gaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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