Apple's smart home platform may finally unite legion of isolated devices

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2014
Apple is reportedly on the verge of announcing a new iOS-based platform that will integrate with users' "smart home" systems, a move that could finally tie together a sea of individual devices -- and controllers -- to turn the niche "Internet of things" into a mainstream market.



According to a report on Monday, Apple is preparing to launch at WWDC a new software platform that centers around the iPhone. Interfacing with Internet-connected devices, like security systems, lights and household appliances, the handset would be the center of a user's digital universe.

Existing Platforms

Apple isn't the first to make an attempt at unifying the smart home with a single standard. Examples include first-party solutions like Belkin's WeMo home automation technology and open standards such as SmartThings and ZigBee, the latter of which is compatible with a huge number of devices including Nest and Philips Hue products.


Belkin's WeMo LED lighting.


Like other hardware and software coalitions, segmentation inhibits development of a single universal solution by which users can control their expanding connected device universe. Oftentimes a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth enabled light requires its own app, while a smart TV needs another.

While there has been some work toward a unified standard from firms offering devices in a single product category such as lighting, other OEMs that market a range of devices choose to push proprietary protocols. WeMo's plan, for example, is to offer first-party products as well as compatibility with other premium partners like Crock-Pot, Mr. Coffee and more.

There has yet to be a widely accepted standard that brings all these devices under one umbrella, whether it be for economic purposes or quality control.

What Apple brings to the table is a massive installed user base in iOS device owners. Sheer numbers could behoove manufacturers to adopt Cupertino's new platform under a "Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad" style license. Apple would then be in control of product certification, ensuring users a consistent and cohesive experience that heretofore has not existed in the smart home segment.

Devices

A variety of products are already supported -- some exclusively -- on Apple's iOS platform through remote control apps. Whether they run in the background or require active user input, the following apps and corresponding products are a sampling of existing products that could be announced as initial partners of Apple's smart home solution.

Philips Hue

The Hue system was one of the first connected device product lines to see mainstream adoption after being introduced in Apple Stores in 2012. Featuring bright, accurate, color-tunable LED lights, Hue is billed as the "world's smartest lightbulb."

Hue


Philips' system, first introduced in a three-pack starter kit, requires a wireless hub that controls up to 50 bulbs and accessories through a dedicated app. The software itself functions as a remote to change up colors and brightness, while boasting automation in the way of geofencing and on/off scheduling.

Hue has extended its range to include three bulb types and lighting accessories sold under the Friends of Hue moniker. The company will be introducing all-white bulbs, physical switches and high-end 3D-printed luminaires in the coming months.

Nest

Former iPod chief Tony Fadell's Nest Labs first introduced the Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011 and has since released a follow-up model as well as the Protect connected carbon monoxide and smoke detector.

Nest


The Nest thermostat is also compatible with the ZigBee standard via Wi-Fi and controls basically all HVAC systems in a user's home. Forced air, radiant, multi-zone AC, heat pumps and more are automatically monitored and adjusted by the device.

Along with remote control functions, automatic temperature and auto-schedule settings, Nest can also run energy efficient cycles to save electricity.

The Nest Protect was recently in the news after a flaw was discovered in the "Nest Wave" convenience function, which resulted in a stoppage of sales in April. Protect's "wave" feature, which allows users to turn off alerts by flailing their hands in front of the device, was found to pose a potential threat to consumers as it could be unintentionally activated.

Kevo

Kwikset's Kevo is one of the better examples of an automated yet secure door lock. Powered by batteries and operated via Bluetooth 4.0, the Kevo is convenient and reliable, though could pose a problem for a platform based on Wi-Fi connectivity.

Kevo


Unlike other smart locks, Kevo needs to establish a Bluetooth connection with a registered eKey device in order to operate. For Apple's latest iOS devices, the Kevo app runs in the background and waits for a call from the corresponding door lock to pass along the encrypted data, making the task of unlocking a door as easy as touching the deadbolt rose, which activates the locking/unlocking process.

Kevo represents a device that -- barring a standalone app -- only a unified smart home platform can control. Integrating Wi-Fi-based protocols into a single piece of software is one thing, but simultaneously monitoring and controlling both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connected devices would require a holistic solution. Apple's iOS devices are perfectly suited for the task.

Sonos

Moving to audio, Sonos has made a name for itself in offering Internet-connected speakers that can be controlled via a single app. The company has a host of products ranging from bookshelf speakers to full-blown home theater equipment, all controlled from a single app or standalone remote.



Sonos' big draw is asynchronous multi-room playback, which allows users to listen to different songs in different rooms. Of course the same song can be played throughout the house if a user so chooses. The system requires a wireless bridge and relies on software to stream audio from a user's iTunes library and music services like Spotify and Pandora.

Multi-room audio is nothing new, though it was previously reserved for the well-heeled or tech savvy. Sonos' plug-and-play functionality brought the technology to the masses.

AirPlay

A platform all its own, Apple's AirPlay lets users stream audio and video from iOS and Mac devices to HDTVs and other equipment. Alongside Apple's own Apple TV and AirPort Express, third-party speaker manufacturers are also building the tech into their products as an alternative to Bluetooth streaming.

Libratone


Companies like Libratone, responsible for the Loop, Lounge and Zipp speakers reviewed on AppleInsider, tout AirPlay compatibility as a main selling point.

Other

In addition to the major brands mentioned above, a slew of smaller companies are marketing connected devices. Netatmo, for example, offers a smart thermostat and weather station that monitors air quality, temperature and other metrics. Another firm called Parrot sells Flower Power, a sensor-laden device that measures waters, sun and temperature for proper plant maintenance.

What's Next

If and when Apple debuts its smart home platform, the company's plans will likely have a great impact on manufacturers already fielding their own connected solutions. Whether it be products like Hue that subscribe to a somewhat open connectivity protocol such as ZigBee, or devices like Belkin's closed WeMo lineup, a shift in the smart home sector is coming. The question is who will decide to opt in and who will go it alone.

It's also interesting to note that the reported licensing angle contrasts Apple's current "MFi" program. Instead of introducing a product (the iPod) and reining in the subsequent accessories cottage industry, Apple will be laying down a licensing and software framework onto which existing OEMs can hang their devices. In that respect the proposed smart home platform is a bit like Apple's AirPlay or CarPlay, except instead of feeding iPhone content, Apple's system would presumably offer a secure and cohesive smart device control service.

According to rumors, all will be revealed at WWDC 2014 and AppleInsider will be there to deliver the latest announcements.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 76
    suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,812member
    Speculation based on speculation. These are the hopes and dreams that will be dashed when Apple doesn't announce anything like this at WWDC. You could've just waited until the real announcement is made, and we've got concrete information to talk about. June 2 is just around the corner.
  • Reply 2 of 76
    clexmanclexman Posts: 176member

    I hope this turns out. "The internet of things," is such a fun category, but lacks standards that are easy for a casual user to keep up with. Getting a touch of Apple's, "It just works," approach could bring it mainstream. Or it may be too soon.

  • Reply 3 of 76
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,315member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post



    Speculation based on speculation. These are the hopes and dreams that will be dashed when Apple doesn't announce anything like this at WWDC. You could've just waited until the real announcement is made, and we've got concrete information to talk about. June 2 is just around the corner.

     

    And because of all these rumors whatever is announced will be declared a letdown and boring. Apple is becoming victimized by its own hype machine. It can’t possibly live up to the speculation raging out of control. 

  • Reply 4 of 76
    island hermitisland hermit Posts: 6,217member

    You've still got a week, Samsung. You should be able to get something out by this Thursday!

  • Reply 5 of 76
    anomeanome Posts: 1,486member
    lkrupp wrote: »
    And because of all these rumors whatever is announced will be declared a letdown and boring. Apple is becoming victimized by its own hype machine. It can’t possibly live up to the speculation raging out of control. 
    It's not even Apple's hype machine. It's bored tech pundits, who might have some vague information, but more likely just want this really bad, who get repeated by other bored tech pundits. It's true they're a victim of their success, but only because of the feedback loop of tech punditry
  • Reply 6 of 76
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Wait so Apple hasn't even announced anything yet and AI is already declaring Apple will turn the ""Internet of things" into a mainstream market"? :no:
  • Reply 7 of 76
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post



    Speculation based on speculation. These are the hopes and dreams that will be dashed when Apple doesn't announce anything like this at WWDC. You could've just waited until the real announcement is made, and we've got concrete information to talk about. June 2 is just around the corner.

    This is one rumor that really appeals to me. I normally don't get excited about the usual AI rumor mill articles, but I really, really like the possibility of Apple unifying  the home automation future. I think the time is right. This trend in on the radar, whether Apple brings it or not, so I hope they do.

  • Reply 8 of 76
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,388member

    I love the idea of Apple getting into intelligent homes, but it has to be done intelligently. We’re talking installation from the core, not control at the limbs.

     

    Meaning if you’re going to force me to buy a $40 lightbulb for every socket of my house, you’re not going to sell any product. “Smart” lightbulbs are one of the stupidest products since the DVD rewinder. Make the WIRING smart. Then let me use whatever bulb I want.

     

    Same goes for everything else. In fact, if the installation is done on the wiring level, there will be many appliances that you won’t need to replace with smart” versions. But you may want to, given the greater level of control you’d be afforded.

  • Reply 9 of 76
    andysolandysol Posts: 2,506member
    I love the idea of Apple getting into intelligent homes, but it has to be done intelligently. We’re talking installation from the core, not control at the limbs.

    Meaning if you’re going to force me to buy a $40 lightbulb for every socket of my house, you’re not going to sell any product. “Smart” lightbulbs are one of the stupidest products since the DVD rewinder. Make the WIRING smart. Then let me use whatever bulb I want.

    Same goes for everything else. In fact, if the installation is done on the wiring level, there will be many appliances that you won’t <span style="line-height:1.4em;">need to replace with </span>
    “<span style="line-height:1.4em;">smart</span>
    ” versions. But you may want to, given the greater level of control you’d be afforded.


    I'm with you on this. You're going to have to have Bluetooth and/or wifi everything.

    Apple wouldn't release something that would require wiring I wouldn't think. They haven't ever released something before an extremely healthy infrastructure was already in place- so IF it happened, were looking at wifi/Bluetooth which sounds ridiculously expensive. Everyone of those products they mentioned are 3-20x the cost of "dumb" models. I'll make investments, but yikes... I might tap the brakes with light bulbs.
  • Reply 10 of 76
    shogunshogun Posts: 362member
    These rumors come from Apple. They're ramping up their hype machine. If it's not Apple then you'll read an article tomorrow from a long time associate of Apple who says they've talked to high level personnel and hear there will be no Home Automation announcements. If you don't hear that, bet on it. This is how it works.
  • Reply 11 of 76
    pazuzupazuzu Posts: 1,728member

    Who owns or lives in a house anymore?

  • Reply 12 of 76
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    shogun wrote: »
    These rumors come from Apple. They're ramping up their hype machine. If it's not Apple then you'll read an article tomorrow from a long time associate of Apple who says they've talked to high level personnel and hear there will be no Home Automation announcements. If you don't hear that, bet on it. This is how it works.
    There was nothing in the FT report that was hype. This article is hype but it's not coming from Apple.
  • Reply 13 of 76
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,362member

    You know AI, all this speculation doesn't help. Why the **** dont we wait to see what they show before publishing another thousand articles of the best case scenario? You're not doing Apple any favors here, because if it doesn't meet every bullet point of all these pie-in-the-sky fantasy posts it will be considered a "disappointment". This article is written with literally zero information. Let's all just shut the **** up and wait. Its only a few more days. 

  • Reply 14 of 76
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    pazuzu wrote: »
    Who owns or lives in a house anymore?
    Wut?
  • Reply 15 of 76
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,362member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pazuzu View Post

     

    Who owns or lives in a house anymore?


     

    People who make some money live in houses. Yeah, they still exist. Where the **** do you live that you havent seen a house? My city is 95% houses. 

  • Reply 16 of 76
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,362member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shogun View Post



    These rumors come from Apple. They're ramping up their hype machine. If it's not Apple then you'll read an article tomorrow from a long time associate of Apple who says they've talked to high level personnel and hear there will be no Home Automation announcements. If you don't hear that, bet on it. This is how it works.

     

    Complete bullshit. Yeah, Apple's grand plan is to spoil their huge WWDC a few days before the event by leaking it to some website. There's absolutely no angle where that would make any fucking sense. All it does is lower the wow factor and surprise at the event. Take off your tin foil hat. Yeah, some Apple employee somewhere probably leaked this in some fashion, but no way in hell it had official approval by leadership. 

  • Reply 17 of 76
    island hermitisland hermit Posts: 6,217member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

     

     

    Complete bullshit. Yeah, Apple's grand plan is to spoil their huge WWDC a few days before the invent by leaking it to some website. There's absolutely no angle where that would make any fucking sense. All it does is lower the wow factor and surprise at the event. Take off your tin foil hat. Yeah, some Apple employee somewhere probably leaked this in some fashion, but no way in hell it had official approval by leadership. 


     

    Sure there is an angle... Cook, Ive and a few of the other Apple Brothers like to drive Samsung nuts. A leak this close to the big event should have the Samsung hive buzzing. lol

  • Reply 18 of 76
    shogunshogun Posts: 362member
    slurpy wrote: »
    Complete bullshit. Yeah, Apple's grand plan is to spoil their huge WWDC a few days before the invent by leaking it to some website. There's absolutely no angle where that would make any fucking sense. All it does is lower the wow factor and surprise at the event. Take off your tin foil hat. Yeah, some Apple employee somewhere probably leaked this in some fashion, but no way in hell it had official approval by leadership. 

    Hi foul mouth. Yes, this is how it works. They want people to be excited. To be bursting at the seams in anticipation. So one week before they drop key hints. Nothing's been given away. Quite to the contrary, more people than ever want to hear what the Apple solution might be. Wisen up. You can't believe the storyline you're being presented. These controlledeaks come from the top. If not, look for a fast disclaimer tomorrow, as Apple won't want people waiting in anticipation for something not coming. If there's no as-good-as-official walking back, it's happening. Again, that's how you play the game.
  • Reply 19 of 76
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,362member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shogun View Post





    Hi foul mouth. Yes, this is how it works. They want people to be excited. To be bursting at the seams in anticipation. So one week before they drop key hints. Nothing's been given away. Quite to the contrary, more people than ever want to hear what the Apple solution might be. Wisen up. You can't believe the storyline you're being presented. These controlledeaks come from the top. If not, look for a fast disclaimer tomorrow, as Apple won't want people waiting in anticipation for something not coming. If there's no as-good-as-official walking back, it's happening. Again, that's how you play the game.

     

    I'm sorry, did I offend your delicate sensibilities? I wasn't swearing at you, the words are simply added for emphasis. 

     

    Anyway, you're wrong, and your logic is sketchy at best. Apple's been virtually silent for 6 months. Noone needs a push to get excited about WWDC. The legacy of WWDC will be the actual announcements, and what they show- not the hype leading up to it. Blowing people away by showing amazing products will make its own waves- there's no need to pad it with leaks for "pre-hype". That's not Apple's style, and it never has been. All it does is lessen the impact, and the benefits are non-existant. It gives people time to imagine scenarios and go on tangents, and will lead to speculation that will probably not materialize. Keeping a lid on it until the reveal would be the ideal scenario. There's not a shred of evidence or logic that Apple would want to pre-empt their own moment. 

  • Reply 20 of 76
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    I wonder when AI will put up a story on this: http://t.co/YC7CvhDSpA
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