SmartPlug turns your home into a modern-day Clapper

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iHome SmartPlug HomeKit
You may not get a whole lot of use out of a single SmartPlug.
Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

Home automation, specifically Apple’s HomeKit framework and its compatible accessories, is the latest Thing We’re Supposed to Get Excited About™. And it has a lot of promise for convenience, time-saving, and just generally feeling like you live in the future.

The first HomeKit-compatible smartplug is upon us, courtesy of iHome. The ISP5 SmartPlug is a $40 device that plugs into your wall outlet and lets you run whatever you plug into it from your iPhone, using either Siri or the companion app.

It does everything it says it will: You can set up rooms and zones, and control individual appliances or whole groups of them with a tap or quick voice command. It also lets you build “rules” to make your stuff turn on and off without your input. All of this is cool, but when you actually have one, you might struggle to think of useful ways to use it.

Apple TV will be the new digital hub for HomeKit

Apple's new improved TV could be coming as early as this fall.
Your new digital hub awaits.
Photo: Robert S. DonovanFlickr CC

Hidden in HomeKit documentation published today is the intriguing confirmation that Apple TV will serve as the digital hub for Apple’s new home-automation setup.

It’s a reminder of just how seriously Apple now treats the set-top box that it dismissed as a “hobby” a few years ago.

Apple Watch wins the wrist war before it starts

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Apple Watch did some monster pre-orders in its first day on sale. Photo: Leander Kahney
The closer we get to Apple Watch, the more advanced it looks in comparison to its competition. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Ever since Tim Cook unveiled the Apple Watch last September, it’s been one disappointment after another as far as I’m concerned. Apple’s first wearable won’t come in the minimalist form factor of the fitness bracelets I love. Worse yet, the launch version of the fashion-forward device will lack GPS, suffer from underwhelming battery life and fail to offer truly native third-party apps.

For the first time, I realized I would not be buying an Apple product when it first hit the market. “It’s not worth lining up for,” I told my dad when he asked what I thought after the Apple Watch’s big reveal.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Apple Watch’s launch day, which is coming sometime this spring. And I’m not talking about the previously unthinkable — an Apple fan calling the Microsoft Band the best smartwatch on the planet. No, I’m talking about wading through an ungodly sea of really bad smartwatches at International CES earlier this month and seeing indisputable proof of just how innovative and disruptive Apple Watch actually will be.

With HomeKit on horizon, home automation is about to get real

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Wall of Philips remotes. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Wall of Philips remotes. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
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The year is 2018. After a long day at work, you pull into your driveway, whip out your iPhone 10 Plus and say, “Siri, I’m home.”

Your garage door opens silently, beckoning you to enter the ultra-connected smart home of the future.

As you walk in, your lights turn on. The wife used to get on you about leaving the lights on, but her nagging feels like a distant memory now. Your thermostat cools everything down to a comfortable 69 degrees. Knowing that you pulled into the driveway two minutes ago, your oven has started preheating itself. You usually fix dinner for yourself on Thursdays, so it’s time for frozen pizza.

iDevices’ HomeKit-compatible Switch lets Siri light up your house

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iDevices' HomeKit-compatible Switch lets you control anything you plug into it using an iOS app. Photo: iDevices
iDevices' HomeKit-compatible Switch lets you control anything you plug into it using an iOS app. Photo: iDevices

LAS VEGAS — iDevices’ first HomeKit-compatible product will be a simple on-off switch that turns your iPhone into a remote control for lamps and appliances.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 It’s name is simple too: Switch.

The $49.99 rectangular device plugs into an outlet. You plug a standard electrical device like a lamp or stereo into its convenient side outlet, and then you can turn that device on and off remotely. Switch comes in plain white, although a colored band of lights can be programmed to glow in custom colors to brighten up a dark hallway.

“You can change it to any color you like,” said Dan Cepa, iDevices’ senior director of sales, during CES International.