At Apple’s World Wide Developer’s
Conference held in San Francisco in early
June, Apple made a long-anticipated
announcement about its plans for the
network-connected home. Every time
Apple makes a move, it is imperative
that our industry fully understands the
implications of these announcements
because our clients will be asking us
about the relevance of these products for
the integrated technology home solutions
that we design, sell, and support.
Last month’s Home Kit software
development kit introduction presented
a set of programming tools that will be
released when the next version of Apple’s
mobile iOS platform, Version 8, ships later
this fall. According to Apple’s presentation,
Home Kit will allow manufacturers that
develop smart home products with app control (such as Philips Hue and
the Chamberlain line of garage door openers) to communicate with one
another over the Home Kit platform. Those companies that write their
application software to be compatible with Home Kit will give them access
to the following features:
• The ability to communicate with other
Home Kit compatible applications.
For instance, a good-night scene
programmed in the iOS 8 Home Kit
could turn off the Philips Hue lights
and make sure the Chamberlain-controlled
garage door is closed.
• A level of security that could be
managed by only those with fingerprint
authentication on the new iPhones.
• The addition of Siri voice activation
to the control of these smart products.
• Geofencing and iBeacon technologies–
location-aware technologies that can
initiate an action in an application based
on the location of the iOS device, such
as turning on landscape lights when an
iPhone in a car approaches a home.
• Grouping of product services into
homes, rooms, and zones.
These are significant new feature sets that could greatly enhance the
smart home systems that we currently deploy in our clients’ homes. One
of the main arguments against multi-application based homes is that it
is difficult to provide a level of automation across applications. Those
vendors that implement HomeKit compatibility in their software can
overcome that limitation. The addition of Siri voice control opens up a
whole new range of control possibilities that augment the touch of an app
with control with one’s voice. These new features will have a significant
impact on our home technology design solutions that we offer our clients.
|One of the main arguments against multi-application based homes is that
it is difficult to provide a level of automation across applications. Vendors
that implement Apple’s HomeKit compatibility in their software can
overcome that limitation.
It is very important to note, however, that the success of Apple’s
new HomeKit platform will be based on the number of premium home
technology companies that will agree to update their software to take
advantage of these Home Kit features. The premium home technology
companies that I am referring to include companies such as Lutron, Sonos,
Nest, and many others that provide very rich and reliable hardware and
software experiences for our clients with their own hardware and software.
None of these companies appeared on Apple’s early adopter list of Home
Kit partners, and it is unclear that they will want to implement Home Kit
in their software. These companies may choose to continue to control
their own destiny and add many of Home Kit’s software features to their
own upgraded software releases.
In addition, there is still a large and growing Android market for app
control of the home that will continue to be a competing standard, and
many smart home technology manufacturers may choose to focus their
software efforts on enhanced compatibility with the Android platform
over Apple’s Home Kit.
There is also the general concern that Apple clearly exerts a tremendous
amount of control over their ecosystem partners. That has been a benefit
in that it assures a level of quality control for all third-party products
that run on Apple operating systems, but it can also restrict the level of
innovation that these third-party companies may wish to include in their
hardware and software solutions.
Like all new platform announcements, they only have meaning if the
significant players in the market commit to support a given platform.
Obviously, when a company with Apple’s
dominance in the phone and tablet markets
makes an announcement like HomeKit, it is
potentially a very significant announcement
for our industry. But they will face formidable
opposition from Google, Microsoft, and
Samsung’s connected home initiatives, some
of the most highly capitalized companies in
One thing is certain: the connected home
space is now front-page news. Dominance
of this market is in the crosshairs of many
of the largest companies in the world. As
integrators of home technology for our
clients’ homes we will all benefit from
the increased awareness that these home
technology solutions can provide. It is up
to our industry to decide for our clients
what we think will best fit their needs in this
exciting new “internet of things” connected
world in the home.