5 Ways Apple Could Innovate Your Home
Since Apple took just a few minutes at its June developers conference to announce HomeKit — its platform to connect and control connected devices in the smart home — little more has been revealed about the framework, what it will do, and when it will be available to consumers. Developers and manufacturers of the apps and hardware that will enable users to control locks, lights, doors, cameras, thermostats, plugs, and switches via HomeKit confirmed to Mashable that the platform is coming “soon,” and industry experts have projected that it will arrive by the end of the year.
HomeKit, unlike the HealthKit platform that Apple also announced in June, hasn’t yet officially launched. As Mashable notes, many expect that HomeKit will catalyze the “smart home revolution,” but Apple has said little about the platform since the WWDC in June. That means that we don’t know a whole lot about exactly what it’ll do or when it will arrive — but let’s review what we do know and what you can expect with the upcoming launch of the platform.
1. You’ll use your iPhone or your Apple TV to control HomeKit
HomeKit could have an iOS 8 app, like HealthKit’s Health, which will gather data from smart home devices so that users don’t need to use multiple apps to monitor and control them. Or, as a new favorite theory goes, Apple TV could function as the hub for HomeKit and its connected devices, with AppleInsider reporting recently that the latest update to the software for the $99 set-top box enables remote access to the HomeKit interface.
Using CloudKit and Keychain, HomeKit could automatically sync information about smart home devices to Apple TV. By enabling users to select Apple TV as the hub for their smart home, Apple would also include Android users and remove the barrier to wide adoption that a system requiring an iPhone would constitute. In a simple update to Apple TV, Apple could also add a microphone to enable users to control their smart home using Siri.
2. Siri will be able to control your smart home devices
One of the few features of HomeKit that Apple has revealed is that it will enable users to control groups of devices with Siri. AppleInsider reported in June that she’ll soon be able to act on commands like “Close the garage,” or “Turn on the kitchen lights,” and a page in Apple’s iOS Developer Library explains:
“The home configuration database is not only available to third-party apps, it’s also available to Siri. This allows users to give commands like, ‘Siri, turn on the lights in the living room.’ If a user creates a home configuration with logical groupings of accessories, services, and commands, Siri can make it very easy to accomplish sophisticated operations with voice control.”
Siri will also be able to respond to queries on the status of a specific device or object in the home, such as “Is my door locked?” Siri will integrate with the apps built by third-party developers to enable users to simply and automatically control all of the connected devices in their homes.
3. Remote access is part of the system
AppleInsider also reported that Apple has “baked remote access into its system,” so that users will be able to use HomeKit to check whether they locked a door or closed the garage even when they’re away from home, and not on the same WiFi network where their HomeKit accessories operate. The platform also supports the monitoring and control of multiple homes, so that users can access devices at more than one location, and they can save the names of rooms in HomeKit’s settings.
HomeKit also reportedly includes end-to-end encryption between iOS devices and smart home devices, and the HomeKit API requires that integrated apps in use run in the foreground, so that users can easily discern what app is controlling their devices. HomeKit’s remote access will fill a big gap for some smart home devices, like August’s locks. For August’s accessories and others, it makes a lot of sense to be able to monitor or control them when you’re away from home, but the device manufacturers haven’t yet added the capability.
4. Apple has chosen WiFi and Bluetooth as HomeKit’s wireless protocols
As 9to5Mac reported, Apple has finalized and published specifications for HomeKit through its Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod licensing program. All companies building HomeKit hardware need to participate in the licensing program and follow the specifications, which outline guidelines for pairing, security, and communication with Bluetooth LE and WiFi connected devices. The HomeKit Accessory Protocol also includes profiles for the control of products including fans, garage doors, lightbulbs, locks, power outlets, binary switches, and thermostats.
Bluetooth is already integrated into Apple’s iPhones, laptops, tablets, and even the Apple TV set-top box. With the HomeKit certification program that Apple is building around the platform, manufacturers will be required to make their devices easy to set up and able to behave in specific ways, so that they can all communicate with each other through apps, creating a comprehensive home automation system.
As Mashable notes, the rollout of HomeKit is fundamentally different from the rollout of HealthKit, which depended in no small part on developers creating apps to integrate with the framework. But for HomeKit, manufacturers need to develop the hardware that will enable users to create their own smart home, working with chip suppliers and others to make their device compatible with the framework and taking a measured approach to implementing privacy measures and accounting for easy user setup.
5. A wide range of manufacturers are already on board with HomeKit.
August, Broadcam, Philips, Belkin, Honeywell, TI, Elgato, iHome, Velvetwire, and others have announced smart home devices that will integrate with HomeKit, with manufacturers readying everything from light bulbs to smoke detectors to integrate with the framework.
Apple will hold a Made for iPhone summit in November, and use the event to provide manufacturers and developers with information on HomeKit (plus iBeacon, AirPlay, and others). With the summit upcoming and the final specifications now available, it’s likely that more manufacturers will announce products that support HomeKit integration, especially if HomeKit launches, as expected, before the end of the year.