European Commission worries Apple could be future smart home ‘gatekeeper’

By

Siri on HomePod mini
Siri is taking over our lives.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Smart home technology isn’t a massive focus of Apple’s. But the European Commission is nonetheless concerned that Apple could be one of the companies potentially able to engage in anticompetitive behavior in this area due to its outsized influence on the tech industry.

In preliminary investigation results published Wednesday, the EC raises concerns about the potential of “gatekeepers emerging” in this sector. The inquiry into Internet of Things (IoT) devices was launched in July 2020. It’s based on feedback from more than 200 different companies. Along with Apple, Amazon and Google are both mentioned as big players.

“When we launched this sector inquiry, we were concerned that there might be a risk of gatekeepers emerging in this sector,” said Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager. “We were worried that they could use their power to harm competition, to the detriment of developing businesses and consumers. From the first results published today, it appears that many in the sector share our concerns. And fair competition is needed to make the most of the great potential of the Internet of Things for consumers in their daily lives. This analysis will feed into our future enforcement and regulatory action… We look forward to receiving further feedback from all interested stakeholders in the coming months.”

Investigating smart homes

One main bone of contention appears to be voice assistants such as Siri, which serve as the interface by which people will interact with their smart homes. The concern is also about the way that companies have the ability to build ecosystems which could, increasingly, govern our lives.

As noted, smart homes aren’t a big focus for Apple. Apple introduced its HomeKit smart home framework back in 2014. Since then, it has continued to expand it although Apple has not become a leader in the overall smart home space in the way that, for instance, Apple Watch rules wearables. Nonetheless, the EU is broadly concerned about Apple’s ability to dominate whichever market it turns its attention to. The European Union already has an investigation probing Apple’s control of the App Store. Another is looking into Apple Pay.

The Commission aims to publish its final report on smart homes in the first half of 2022.

Are you concerned about the dominance of Big Tech in building your future smart home? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: EC.Europa and press release