Apple readying new software platform for the ‘Smart Home’ to be unveiled at WWDC sources say

“Apple is readying a new software platform that would turn the iPhone into a remote control for lights, security systems and other household appliances, as part of a move into the ‘internet of things,'” Tim Bradshaw reports for The Financial Times. “Apple plans to… make a ‘big play’ in the world of smart home technology at its Worldwide Developer Conference on June 2 in San Francisco, according to people familiar with the matter.”

“This will reinforce the view, held by some in Silicon Valley, that Jetsons-style home automation is the next frontier in technology as growth in smartphone sales begins to slow in developed markets,” Bradshaw reports. “Apple’s integrated system will make it easier to set up and control new ‘smart home’ devices. For example, a home’s lights might automatically come on when the owner enters the house, using their iPhone to wirelessly signal their arrival. Such a system was outlined in an Apple patent filing, published in November last year.”

“The connected-home system will give Apple customers more reasons to buy several devices in its iOS family, by using the iPhone or iPad in conjunction with its Apple TV box, an upgraded version of which is expected to be released later this year, to control other domestic devices,” Bradshaw reports. “Apple has been talking to a select group of other device makers whose smart home products will be certified to work with its forthcoming new system and then be sold in its retail stores. The scheme will be similar to Apple’s existing ‘Made for iPhone’ label, given to compatible headphones, speakers and other accessories, but with a new brand and logo.”

“As the smart home market is still in its very early days, Apple may face challenges in convincing consumers and technologists to use its platform,” Bradshaw reports. “But Apple’s longstanding promise that its products ‘just work’ when used together, thanks to its tight integration of hardware, software and cloud services, could give the iPhone maker an advantage over its rivals.”

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33 Comments

    1. It seems Insteon is a lower-priced version of Savant, which is used in high-end homes. Savant is completely iOS and is installed in multi-million dollar homes. Given that million-dollar home owners typically own iPhones, this makes sense that Apple is going to make a hard play for home automation.

      1. Savant is a control and automation system, enabling what we in the industry call “integration”, meaning you can control and automate audio/video, lights, hvac, drapes, fireplace, sprinklers, etc. As you alluded, Savant is a high-end product, installed only by professional installers, and accessible only to pretty well-heeled customers.

        Insteon is both an enabling wireless control platform and a family of hardware products. It’s fairly affordable as home control and automation goes, so accessible to more of the market, but it’s also quite technical and geeky. If you want to integrate and automate fully, you need other companies’ products.

        Those two opposite ends of the home control and automation market sort of encapsulate the problem. At one end are very expensive, professionally-installed solutions, and at the other end, affordable, but very geeky, very technical solutions. There are a couple of platforms that are trying to integrate disparate systems, but nothing so far that normal, average people will want to deal with.

        Given all that, I think the home automation and control market is ripe for a revolution similar to what Apple did to the mobile phone market with the iPhone. It would be a tough nut to crack, and I’m not sure Apple is doing it, but not much of anybody better than Apple to try.

        My only concern would be that Apple tends to be pretty limiting in terms of certain kinds of interoperability (for a variety of reasons both good and bad). That would tend to run counter the concept of “integration” to some extent, but regardless, this is an interesting rumor for sure.

      1. Very telling. From the FT article “Apple considers privacy a key advantage over Google, the person said, since Google relies on targeted advertising as its main source of income. In a regulatory filing last week, Google said it was preparing for a “multi-device future” where “we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches”. Who the hell wants that! Wakeup world.

  1. I think Apple’s “play” in this market, is to make it as “not” interactive as possible. The more common approach is to put the automation product front and center. So, you have the customer interacting with the “smart home” in significant ways, using voice commands, gestures, etc. This is understandable, because the automation product is usually THE main product for the company making that product. It needs to be visible.

    Look at the difference in how Apple approaches “the cloud.” Other companies put their cloud service “in the face” of users, because that service is the “raison d’être.” Apple’s iCloud, on the other hand, is often in the background, quietly doing things without being noticed (or appreciated). This is why a lot of so-called industry “experts” do not understand the importance of iCloud. iCloud’s reason for existence is to help enhance the user experience of Apple’s key (profit-making) products, such as Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and whatever else comes in the future. Everything else Apple does, such as iCloud, Siri, iTunes Store, and software development are “enhancers.”

    Therefore, in a similar way, this automation product/service will also be “in the background.” It will enhance how customers use Apple’s customer-facing products (Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc.) in the home, and help sell more of those products. And it will “just work” (and most of the experts probably won’t “get it” either).

    1. I’m in complete agreement with you that Apple’s approach will be less in-your-face.

      An “innovation” I hope this drives is family iCloud account aggregation. Since a house generally will need to be responsive to multiple iCloud accounts, I hope the team working on this has the clout to push for aggregation rather than a sign-up list (where the homeowner adds all the iDevices to the trusted list individually).

  2. Will this mean I could control my Nest thermostat without having to send data to google? When I learned google had bought Nest I closed my account and disconnected the thermostat from my Wi Fi network. I do miss the ability to check my temperature settings while sitting on the sofa in my living room however.

    1. I think Google are creeps too, but don’t you think you jumped the gun a bit? All evidence points to nothing changing at Nest so far. Google doesn’t have access to anything. You could still be enjoying the benefits of your Nest thermostat… for now. But why not wait for something to change first? It’s not like the tech press won’t jump on it immediately. We’ll all know when they start breaking their promises.

      1. Agreed. My 3 Nest thermostats are still connected and my account is still active. I haven’t been inundated by ads on my thermostats, and there’s nothing there like a camera in the thermostat to relay any more data than what temperature my house is, did I change my air filters, etc. I don’t see it as that big of a deal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Google sold Nest in a couple of years once they realize it doesn’t fit into their true business model (advertising), just like they realized with Motorola.

    2. Nothing changes when Google takes over a company, at first.
      Googles priority is not the products the company makes but the information of the owners of the products! particularly information that the owners of the product think they have available over the internet.
      Once Google assimilates all that info, you will get a message saying…..
      ‘We are Google, prepare for assimilation, resistance is futile’.
      At this stage, resistance is indeed futile as your personal information has already been assimilated. You can rotate your defense shields frequency however much you like but The Google knows already knows them all and has adjusted its software to penetrate all frequencies.
      The only chance you have is to allow yourself to be assimilated so that like Jean-Luke Picard, you can figure out an attack from within.
      So in answer to your question Dave, the time to have taken pro-active measures would have been at the point when Nest was still independent and would have therefor been obliged to remove all your data from their servers.

    3. I went further. I sold my Nest when Google bought them and went back to a standard programmable thermostat. I lam still ooking for a less creepy alternative.

      1. So if Apple had bought Nest you would still be using your Nest thermostat right? It seems funny to me how consumers have bought into this Us vs Them mentality. I think if it is a good product that makes your life easier, it shouldn’t matter if it was made by Apple or Google. Both companies will try to gain market share at all costs and I think in the end the consumer wins because of this. That said, if Apple comes out with better integration with my Elan G automation system, then I will probably buy my first iPhone.

  3. I have a whole bunch of internet things.. our front gate, 3 garage doors, Nest thermostats and smoke detectors, Hue lights, outdoor landscaping lights and watering, several lights throughout the house, Sonos integrated through a whole house system, door locks and home theater stuff, but there’s so much more that could be done with bringing this all together. I’d really like to see Apple take the lead here in this. I wonder how much an IFTTT acquisition would cost?

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