We like HomeKit; don’t get us wrong. Apple’s automation framework has taken our relationship with our lights to strange, wonderful, and not at all awkward new places. And we like the potential of saving money on energy with smart thermostats, getting smoke and carbon monoxide alarms directly on our phones, and using our iPhone or Apple Watch like a virtual bouncer to control who gets into our homes.
That’s the problem, though — that’s basically all anyone’s done with HomeKit. And it’s mostly lights and plugs.
But First Alert has arrived to bust us out of this rut with a promising device that sounds both useful and eminently futuristic: a HomeKit-compatible safe. And if that doesn’t fill you with dreams and vision for what automation can mean, we’re sure you’ll enjoy your bulbs. We really do.
First Alert is at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, and it’s showing off a range of products. Most of them don’t excite us much; they have a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector, a dedicated CO sensor, and a thermostat. But they also have the Onelink Wi-Fi Safe, and that’s what really has our attention.
It’s not because we really need a safe. And besides, if we got the HomeKit version, we’d probably get a larger safe to keep someone from breaking into our house to steal this almost certainly expensive one.
No, what we love about this is that unlike lights, thermostats, or plugs, a smartsafe is not necessarily something that always has to remind us it’s at work. It’s always doing something, ostensibly; it keeps track of its door and sends you an alert if someone opens it or if the safe itself moves. But as for when you actually, absolutely use it? That could be days or weeks, depending on your needs. Meanwhile, you’re telling your lights to set a movie scene, and your thermostat is learning your habits, and you use your smartlock every time you leave or arrive at home.
It’s specifically because the safe could sit untouched and not really doing anything until you absolutely need it that we have hope for the future of HomeKit and home automation. Every other smart product we use tries to sell us on how much you’re going to use it, but we simply don’t use everything in our houses every day. And the safe is fine with that; it’s a part of the home, it serves its function, and it still does its cool automation stuff.
That’s what HomeKit and similar frameworks need to do to escape passing-fad status — they need to understand that we don’t necessarily use all of our stuff all of the time. And getting that idea will lead to some great new products because manufacturers won’t be trying to come up with The Most Useful Thing That You Can’t Go a Day Without. We’ll get cool, one-trick devices that still fit in and do their thing but don’t have to constantly call attention to themselves.
So come on, engineers. The time for the smart coaster may be here. It’s like a regular drink coaster, but it has LEDs on it that indicate … something. I don’t know; LEDs are the leading sign of smartness.