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.
Tim Cook leaves the stage at the end of the 2014 WWDC keynote. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web
Instead of dropping an iWatch or some other hardware bombshell at WWDC, Apple showcased the futuristic tools it will use to extend its rapidly growing empire.
“Apple engineers platforms, devices and services together,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook as he wrapped up the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote Monday in San Francisco. “We do this so we can create a seamless experience for our users that is unparalleled in the industry. This is something only Apple can do.”
Casual observers (and stock analysts) might fret that there was no big wearables reveal, no amazing new Apple TV, not even a spec boost for an existing device during the highly anticipated WWDC kickoff.
A lot of the speculation is paranoid: Google wants to track everyone offline as well as online, and Nest’s thermostat and smoke alarms give the Googleplex motion sensors right in peoples’ homes.
But wouldn’t Apple be a more natural fit for the home-automation startup? Nest was co-founded by two former Apple staffers, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers. Fadell was one the fathers of the iPod — a key hardware engineer who led the music player’s development over 17 generations. Rogers was one of Fadell’s top lieutenants.
With great design and easy interfaces, Nest’s combination of hardware and internet software services makes its products very Apple-like. And as home automation is poised to take off (thanks largely to the iPhone and iPad), Apple is surely interested in this potentially huge market.
So why didn’t Apple didn’t pick up the company? Maybe it’s because Jony Ive, Apple’s head designer, was responsible for getting Tony Fadell pushed out of Cupertino.
Nexia’s Matt McGroven says his company’s app makes home automation appealing to consumers, not geeks, and soon we’ll all be controlling our homes from iPhone screens.
LAS VEGAS — We’ve heard the same story for years: the revolution in home automation is just around the corner! And yet, despite the hype, it still hasn’t arrived. But talk to vendors at CES, and they say it finally is just around the corner — thanks to the iPhone.
The iPhone finally gives ordinary consumers a bunch of good reasons to automate their homes, beyond the geeky thrill of turning on the sprinklers from the couch. For example, it can alleviate the universal anxiety of worrying about the stove when away on vacation. Paired with a connected-range (there are several on show here at CES), your iPhone can you tell you if the oven is on, and then let you switch it off.
The best evidence that home automation has arrived is that the nation’s home builders are finally including home automation technology in many new homes as standard. Lennar Homes, the third biggest home builder in the US, is making home automation standard in more than 20,0000 new homes this year, said Matt McGroven, marketing leader of Nexia, a San Francisco-based home automation company.
Nexia makes an app that works in conjunction with a Home Bridge ($60 on Amazon) and service ($9 a month). With 70% of users on iOS, Nexia controls a wide range of automated products, from nannycams to lighting, locks, thermostats, and dozens of others.
“You can do a bunch of cool and genuinely useful things,” he said.
Joining Belkin’s armada of WeMo home-automation devices today is the WeMo Insight Switch. Like the plain-vanilla WeMo Switch, the Insight Switch will let you power on or off whatever is connected to its outlet via the WeMo iOS or Android app. Unlike the regular Switch, the Insight lets you also see exactly how much money you’er spending on juice, and adds more control flexibility.
Even though she can barely understand me, Siri can do some pretty cool stuff. She can find the answers to movie trivia and tell me if it’s raining, but she still can’t do really useful things yet, like turning off the lights or adjust my thermostat, even though home automation is going to be Apple’s next big thing.
A YouTube user by the name of Elvis Impersonator decided it’s time to take Siri to the next level, and make her a truly great personal assistant. So thanks to a Raspberry Pi, Siri can now open and close his garage door, turn off his house alarm, change his TV channel and so much more.
Here’s a video of this awesome Siri home automation hack in action:
Home automation is here, but it isn’t cheap — unless you go the smart route with Securifi‘s new Almond+ router. For $100, this thing has much of what you’d expect from a top-tier router: Fast, next-gen 802.11ac compatibility (but still works with this-gen “n” devices), a claimed 5000 ft radius of coverage, four ethernet ports, a USB port and some slick mounting options.
CES 2013, the world’s biggest cornucopia of cutting-edge gadgetry, kicks off in Las Vegas in under a week, and as always, Cult of Mac’s team of writers will be at all the booths, announcements and parties that matter, getting you the scoop on what’s coming up in the world of tech.
There’s a lot for any Apple fan to get excited about in the run-up to CES, but this year, we think you want to pay a lot of attention to what’s coming out of Las Vegas in relation to home automation. Chances are, everything from your oven to your lights to your thermostat are going to be controlled by your iPhone in just a few years time… and even Apple wants in on the action.