What HomeKit’s commands say about the Apple lifestyle


Apple announced HomeKit to developers at WWDC last year.
Apple announced HomeKit to developers at WWDC last year. Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

Apple is gearing up to introduce its smarthome platform HomeKit alongside the launch of iOS 9 this fall. It will let users control smart devices like lights, door locks, and thermostats from their phones. You’ll also be able to issue voice commands to digital assistant Siri, and the company has updated the list of things you can say to get things done around your house.

But when we looked at the list of commands, we noticed that Apple is making some strange assumptions about how people might be using the new automation features. Here are some of the examples Apple gives and why they have us scratching our heads.

‘Turn off Chloe’s light.’

“Chloe” in this context is probably a baby. We think. Why are you turning off her light specifically, hypothetical HomeKit user?

Maybe you’ve just picked up Chloe, so your hands are full and you couldn’t get the switch on the way out of her room. But somehow, you had a hand free to activate Siri on your iPhone or iPad. So now we’re confused all over again.

It seems like this command is only good for pranking Chloe, who is not a baby but possibly a grown person who is trying to read or something. Or it’s a really passive-aggressive way to tell a young child that it’s time to go to sleep.

Either way, this home sounds like a rough place to live.

HomeKit is all about letting your things talk to your other things.
Photo: Apple

‘Make the living room lights the brightest.’

We have a few things going on here.

In order for this command to make sense, the lights have to be on in several rooms simultaneously. And that happens, sure. But you’re also telling HomeKit that you want to leave the other lights on but just brighten up the living room. Does HomeKit do this by making the living-room lights brighter or by dimming everything else? Does it make a distinction?

Another possibility is that you are just telling Siri to make your living-room lights as bright as they can possibly be, but that’s kind of a weird way of putting it. We prefer to imagine that you have this gleaming beacon that is your living room, and every other room in the house is sitting at murky, cave-level illumination.

Regardless, we’re hard-pressed to think of a situation where you’d want this.

‘Set up for a party, Siri.’

HomeKit will let you create predefined “scenes” like preset equalizers on a stereo. In this case, you’d probably be telling Siri to adjust lighting, turn on the radio, and set the thermostat to a certain level with a single command.

And that’s cool, but we can’t figure out who has so many parties that are so different from normal life that they have to set up a macro for their robot assistant. Why not be extra granular and say, “Set up for a dinner party” or “Set up for a ‘special’ party”?

Maybe that second one is why you’d want to dim the lights in your other rooms.

“I hope I don’t accidentally turn on the solid-gold lamps instead of the platinum ones again. That’s so embarrassing.”
Photo: Texas Instruments

‘Set the Tahoe house to 72 degrees.’

Alright, now Apple is just being snobby.

You all have so many houses that you’d need to specify which one you want to adjust the thermostat in, right? Maybe HomeKit can also give your maid the day off and fuel up the Rolls instead of the Lamborghini, too.

We know that automating a house isn’t going to come cheap, and you’ll have to buy all-new stuff if you want to get in on it, but Apple may have fumbled on this example. The company wants to show how versatile and far-reaching HomeKit is, but it’s taking a pretty upper-crust route to delivering that message.

If the Internet of Things is supposed to sound cool, fun, and futuristic to everyone, this is a fumble. A better example to get the same point across might be “Siri, turn the light on in the tool shed” or “Hey Siri, let’s make my brother think his house is haunted again.”

See? Now I really want HomeKit.

Via: Apple