Apple and Honeywell Take on Nest with a Smart Thermostat

Honeywell Lyric smart thermostat

Honeywell (NYSE:HON) is introducing an Internet-connected thermostat called the Lyric. AppleInsider reports that the Lyric will be able to adjust the temperature of the user’s home dynamically, using geofencing to detect when the owner is close to the house so that it can return the home to the preferred temperature, and regulate the temperature to save on energy costs while the owner is away. As The Verge reports, the geofence will have two settings: a 7-mile radius appropriate for those who live in the suburbs and a 500-foot radius more suited to those who live in cities.

Honeywell says that users can control the thermostat with a smartphone app, or with controls located on the unit itself. Using a sensor, the Lyric can detect when a user walks up to the unit, and will display the current temperature of the home, as well as a colored ring indicating the system’s current activity. It will show orange when heating, blue when cooling, and green when operating in an energy-saving mode. A feature called Fine Tune will also see the Lyric considering current indoor and outdoor temperatures, humidity levels, and weather as it regulates the heating and cooling levels in the home. Honeywell says that the Lyric will find and maintain “the most comfortable” temperature for the owner’s house.

The Lyric, expected to be available in August for $279, is Honeywell’s response to competitors like Nest, which created the Nest Learning Thermostat and was recently acquired by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Nest does not feature the geofencing capability that’s a major appeal of Honeywell’s Lyric. Nest’s smart thermostat is also not yet part of a larger home automation system, as Honeywell’s is expected to be. Honeywell has partnered with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to manufacture products compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, a home automation system that will launch with iOS 8 this fall. (Though there’s been no official announcement yet, it’s likely that Lyric will be updated with HomeKit integration when the operating system launches this fall.)

Apple describes HomeKit as a framework to control and communicate with a network of devices in a user’s home. AppleInsider reports that when Apple unveiled HomeKit at the Worldwide Developers Conference last week, it said that it partnered with manufacturers like Cree (NASDAQ:CREE) and Haier to develop the system. HomeKit will connect and control devices like locks, lights, cameras, doors, plugs, switches, and, of course, thermostats, heralding the arrival of the “Internet of Things.”

The Internet of Things refers to the eventual evolution of the Internet to the point that a wide array of everyday devices will be connected to the Internet and able to receive and transmit communication. Consumers — or science fiction enthusiasts, at least — imagine an era where everything from your toothbrush to your kitchen to your car will be connected and able to communicate. But for now, Apple’s goal is to jumpstart the transition toward the Internet of Things by starting with the smart home.

Honeywell’s Lyric, in its current iteration and in the products that will follow, will play a part in Apple’s plan to make the smart home more accessible and more user-friendly.  Other products that integrate with the Lyric platform are expected to follow the launch of the initial smart thermostat. Apple’s HomeKit integrates with Siri, iOS’s voice-based assistant, so that iPad or iPhone users will be able to use a range of compatible devices and tell Siri to turn on the lights or unlock the door. With the Lyric and with other connected devices, the idea is that the smart home will be able to learn the owner’s schedule and make adjustments automatically — even spontaneously, as the geofence allows the Lyric thermostat to do.

Both Apple and Google, with its recent $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, are poised to develop the innovations that could make the Internet of Things a reality. Apple’s vision seems a bit clearer following the unveiling of HomeKit, and the launch of the Lyric marks Apple’s commitment to integrating third-party devices into the Apple ecosystem. Opening its platform to compatibility with outside devices is a big step for Apple, and a leap forward toward making the smart home and the Internet of Things a reality.

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