Apple Intros HomeKit for Controlling Smart Homes Remotely

Apple's WWDC keynote included the announcement of HomeKit, which is designed to enable users to remotely control their thermostats, adjust lighting and more.

Apple HomeKit Smart Home

As anticipated, Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote included the introduction to a platform for controlling the home. The platform, called HomeKit, will work with brands such as Philips, Honeywell, Kwikset and Neatamo and enable users to do things like remotely control their thermostats, adjust their lighting, and lock or unlock their doors.

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, said HomeKit integrates with Siri, so users will be able to give a command, such as, "Get ready for bed," and HomeKit will perform a series of pre-specified actions, such as making sure the garage door is down, setting the security system, lowering the thermostat and dimming the lights.

"While 'wearables' … have attracted the greatest attention, TBR believes the greater potential market is in fixed devices in the home," Technology Business Research Principal Analyst Ezra Gottheil wrote in a May 29 research report on the Internet of things (IoT).

"The leader in this category is the Nest thermostat, offered by the Next Labs, now a subsidiary of Google," Gottheil continued. "We think the consumer IoT will complement and often lead the commercial IoT, and together they will fuel a wave of innovation and expansion in all segments of IT."

TBR analyst Jack Narcotta told eWEEK after Apple's announcement that the offering will start with things like "lighting and climate controls," but it's just a matter of time before a consumer can tell Siri he wants to watch, "Breaking Bad, season 4, Episode 3 in the family room," give Siri an iTunes gift card number to pay for it, and have the episode purchased, cued up and ready to go before he's got a snack ready to sit down with.

Radek Tadajewski, CEO of Oort, a Bluetooth and iBeacon-based IoT home automation ecosystem headed to Kickstarter this month, said in a statement that he expects HomeKit will create a "tsunami of interest that will benefit device developers and consumers alike," but that it also creates a cross-platform issue.

"For the average person to … make their home 'smart,' support for multiple devices is required. Families are not all on a single platform, and they don't want to be locked into one," said Tadajewski. "For consumers to bring the IoT into their homes and their lives, they need to feel like the conductor of a symphony able to control any connected device from one central point with a wave of their hand."

Analyst Brian White, with investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, told eWEEK he'd be watching WWDC for the hints of what's to come this fall. Apple, he said, shows off features, and then it's up to "observers" to figure out the kinds of devices those features will fit into.

Jan Dawson, principal analyst with Jackdaw Research, has blogged that any Apple smart home solution is likely to have several parts, including at least a communication system, a certification process and a user interface.

Apple hasn't shown its full hand yet, and its potential in this market is tremendous.

"With almost 800 million iOS users, Apple has a huge base to market its capability here, and with Apple retail and online stores selling Apple-certified smart home gear, that's tightly integrated with the Apple ecosystem, this could be a big deal," Dawson pointed out in a May 27 post. "None of the other companies selling smart home solutions today have major global brands, and Apple could galvanize it like no other company could."

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