Made For iHome: Why Home Automation Is Apple’s Next Big Thing [CES 2013 Preview]



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.

Home automation is, of course, not anything new when it comes to iOS devices, but there have been a couple of extremely exciting products to come out in 2012 that saw wide adoption.

The first, of course, is the Nest thermostat, designed by the father of the iPod himself, Tony Fadell. The Nest is a revolutionary new smart thermostat that has a modern interface that isn’t just iPhone-like, but comes with an associated iOS app that makes programming a breeze.

The second is the Philips Hue, an awesomely futuristic pack of color-shifting LED lightbulbs that you can control from a mobile app, which makes getting the mood right as simple as pulling out your iPhone, shifting down the lights and putting a Marvin Gaye album on AirPlay.

These aren’t outliers: all across the tech industry, home automation gadgets are experiencing a renaissance. Just skimming my inbox, I can see that at CES 2013, we’re going to see everything: smartphone-controlled security systems, refrigerators, ovens, showers, lighting systems and more.

The fact that home automation is going to be big isn’t escaping the notice of the big boys, either. Just last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was courting R2 Studios, a home automation startup founded by the man who popularized the Slingbox, in pursuit of a buyout.

It’s easy to see Apple’s interest in this. If home automation hits the mainstream, Apple can make a lot of money selling “Made for iHome” certification if it builds home automation functionality directly into iOS.

And imagine if Apple finally makes good on a veritable iTV? Imagine an Apple HDTV not just as the center of your living room, but as a terminal that controls your entire house, from the lighting down to the gas?

This is a very exciting year in home automation gadgets, and what we see at CES 2013 next week could very well give us concrete hints and clues as to what Apple will be doing over the course of the next decade.

Make sure not to miss our CES 2013 coverage next week, starting Sunday.