Apple reportedly preparing new system for home automation

Apple reportedly preparing new system for home automation
By Derek Kessler on 26 May 2014 11:23 am
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Apple is reported to have a home automation system in the works, with a reveal set for next week's WWDC 2014 conference. The move, which would be taking on floundering efforts by Google and Samsung, would be a big leap for Apple. Though Apple has over the years released a few components here or there for the home (see: iPod Hi-Fi), they've typically left most of the electronic accessories work to third parties.

That said, the addition of home automation to Apple products could follow a similar path as that of AirPlay, wherein Apple licenses a chip for the receiving device that enables AirPlay compatibility. A similar system, with an "Apple Home" chip (name is made up) could see home automation compatibility added to a wide range of third party devices, but still have them operating under Apple's guidelines.

To that end, Financial Times reports that Apple is working with third party manufacturers to produce products certified to work with the new system:

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. Apple may also provide additional checks and assurances that certified products are not vulnerable to hackers.

The addition of home automation to Apple's ecosystem would be a large one, one that would expand the reach of an iPhone or iPad or Mac into the entire home. What features would you like to see Apple build into a home automation and control system?

Source: Financial Times

Related: Connected Home News

34 comments

Teso Dos Bichos

Horrible news given their tendency to restrict products in their walled garden (and store). Take Hue and Nest as two perfect examples.

mikeo007

Hue and Nest are both quite successful as consumer devices, not sure what your point is? They're also both available on the Android platform as well. Simplification of these types of things helps to make them more mainstream, and thus drops the price and increases the support for the rest of us.. There's always other solutions for tinkerers who want unlimited access.

Teso Dos Bichos

They were both restricted in the Apple store at high prices with delayed (and/or limited) non-iOS support. There are lots of other examples of Apple doing this like the Withings blood pressure monitor. Apple getting into the home automation market in this way will only lead to yet more products being stuck behind their walled garden (at least initially) which is bad for the sector. The reason the sector is currently growing is because it is open. This would be a step backwards despite the usual initial ignorant press frenzy and the brief sale spike as certain people buy what they are told.

mikeo007

The sector is still young and growing extremely slowly, and the open segment is even slower. Mass adoption, even if it doesn't meet your needs exactly, is the quickest way to expand a new market segment. Nest and Philips didn't have to go with Apple to launch their products. They chose to because they knew it was the quickest path to consumer adoption; same thing with Belkin Wemo. Now that others see the success of these early products, other options are beginning to appear. Sooner or later there will be options for everyone, and everyone is a winner!

Teso Dos Bichos

Restricting availability leads to reduced uptake particularly in terms of the delayed and substandard cross platform support that results from initial Apple 'exclusivity'. The overall smartphone/device market is mature enough and big enough to not need this approach. Companies are currently developing home automation options with every platform in mind in order to be successful. If Apple do this they will simply revert back to the lazy Apple Store release cycle.

mikeo007

If Apple makes it easier for them to be successful, then why wouldn't they? History would seem to dictate that companies don't just revert to the "easy" Apple way after they've been successful. Instead, they branch out and increase their reach to other users. Philips has an entire developer section with tons of APIs for Hue. Nest recently started a developer program of their own. All of this was made possible by their initial success due to their choice to go with Apple. If you're not an Apple user, then it's true that you might be waiting a bit longer for these things to fully develop, but that's one of the benefits of the platform currently. But just because you don't use or like a platform, is hardly a reason to claim that it's bad for a new product segment, especially when recent history would seem to show otherwise.

Teso Dos Bichos

It holds the sector back. To generalise a product loses six months of development and usage in non-iOS ecosystems. All it results in is unhappy consumers due to the initial delay followed by the usual poor quality app port and then the long process of trying to get equality of features. That is what recent history shows us.

mikeo007

But the alternative could be no product at all. They have to start somewhere, and very few successful products start out with grand, multi-platform, open sourced support. They start small and work their way up. I guess we'll just have to see how it plays out. Plus, I do have mobile devices from various manufacturers, so really, whether it's Apple, Blackberry, Android or Microsoft, I've got my bases covered.

Teso Dos Bichos

Your alternative is flawed as the product will still come to market. The reality is it involves more work and initial investment for the company involved as they need to support various ecosystems from day one. It is why they opt for the lazy/safe approach of ignoring everyone else to gain a fleeting piece of initial iOS exposure if available. Thankfully most of the home automation options come from smaller companies who simply cannot afford to ignore the majority of the market and would not be offered the easy iOS option.

mikeo007

Lots of products don't make it past the initial phases if there's not at lease a reasonable chance at market adoption. Releasing on Apple first raises this chance significantly for some products.

So do you think that these smaller companies will suddenly choose to only support Apple now, despite their inherent issues with it in the past? If anything, all this will do is allow even more companies to get into the mix, and offer more products to more users. I can't really see how this is a bad thing. The little companies that you (and others I'm sure) are thankful for who release to the majority of the market will still be there, doing their thing. Meanwhile, the market will expand exponentially once it's easier for other players to get into the game. Seems like a win/win for users of all types.

Teso Dos Bichos

Most of the products I am talking about re the walled garden and Apple store are from large, successful companies. There is no excuse for their laziness.

With smaller companies it depends on how Apple controls and markets it. If they have a chance of receiving a 'Made for ???' label I think a decent number would go for the increased exposure and easier entry to the market. I would hope the majority do not.

It depends entirely on how they view their risk/reward.

whiteknight

Wouldn't it be a miracle if they embraced NFC? I feel that Apple is single-handedly holding back an entire technological revolution by not embracing NFC. I've got a BlackBerry Z30 and just for fun, decided to play with NFC a little. I ordered a few NFC tags online and programmed two of them for the car. Now when I enter the car, it'll turn on BlueTooth, turn off WiFi, and open Slacker Radio. When I leave the car, it'll turn off BlueTooth, and turn on WiFi. Really basic stuff and just playing around, but I CAN'T BELIEVE how easy it was to setup and operate. Maybe it saves me a few seconds but it really is an amazing technology.

Curious to hear from the community. What are the odds that Apple will eventually cave on NFC? Thanks.

mikeo007

When and if a use-case is discovered where NFC becomes extremely useful to the majority of people, Apple will adopt it. It's not really a question of IF. Additionally, if they discover a new use case that nobody else has, they will adopt NFC and advertise the heck out of it. Should Apple choose to adopt NFC, it will likely become popular, however it can easily become popular without them, as many other technologies have. Blaming Apple for holding something back that's been out there for years is pretty short-sighted.

Teso Dos Bichos

No, it is not. Unless Apple joins everyone else by supporting the standard it will not take off. It is simply a numbers game for the companies involved. Why would they support and develop for a standard that such a large proportion of the market cannot use?

mikeo007

Let me turn that around on you. Why would they NOT support and develop for a standard that such a large portion of the market CAN use? If it has merit, it will be supported. Apple doesn't rule the mobile world, they're just a major player. Products and technologies are released every day that are both exclusive to certain platforms, or exclusive OF certain platforms. Once again, blaming a single platform for holding something back seems more like someone is looking for a reason to hate on a specific company or brand.

whiteknight

Apple won't support NFC because they can't make enough money on it. They introduced iBeacon because they can monetize it more effectively. Another example is why they did not adopt micro-USB for their cables and chargers? Because my wife forgot her iPad charger and had to buy another one for $40 even though she had several micro-USB chargers with her already.

mikeo007

Your mind seems to be made up here that Apple is the "big bad" out to stifle NFC. Not worth a debate with that mindset. Comments on an article about home automation is probably not the place for it anyway.

Teso Dos Bichos

Apple dance to their own tune. Companies will not go 'all in' to a standard unless it has been fully adopted by the market and Apple is a large part of the market. I agree with your comment in general but you know full well what the situation is in this sector re ecosystems. It has nothing to do with 'hate' and everything to do with the practicalities and reality of the situation. History has proven this.

mikeo007

Sure, I mean they didn't become successful by throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. The key in technology markets is not usually to be first to market with something, but rather be the first to do it well enough for the average user. Just as other companies won't go all in without market adoption, neither would Apple go all in with an idea unless it was already working well, or they had a plan to turn it into a "big deal".

Teso Dos Bichos

Turning this back to your initial comment would you now agree that by not supporting the standard Apple is holding it back? You previously said it was 'pretty short-sighted' to claim so which is what I disagreed with. The precise reasoning for their stance is irrelevant.

mikeo007

I don't think they're holding it back any more than than the big 3 auto manufacturers are holding back hydrogen powered vehicles. Does Apple have the ability to popularize NFC? Possibly. Could Ford make hydrogen powered vehicles the next big thing? Entirely possible. But they're not to blame for its current status. Correlation does not imply causation after all.

If you need any proof, just look in an area where Apple is behind the curve such as set top boxes. Apple has had one for years, but kept it relatively closed. Yet the segment is quickly taking off without their support, and they will sooner or later be forced to follow the others, or become irrelevant.

Teso Dos Bichos

Your analogy is flawed as we are talking about one company effectively not playing ball for a standard that does not impact on the overall use of the product. Ultimately NFC is being supported to an extent but full adoption and investment is being withheld pending what Apple does. If Apple adopts NFC you will see everything more to NFC. If not the rest will discuss the situation before deciding whether to ignore Apple in favour of standardisation. This is a decision with wide-ranging implications. This is not simply a disagreement about charging cables. Apple are clearly holding things back in that regard.

Apple tried to pre-empt the set top box market for their own purposes (read iTunes) without ensuring the content people actually wanted was available. Google did likewise. I would also argue that the segment has not taken off as most of the content is delivered via apps to existing devices.

jason8957

No, Apple won't go 'all in' to a standard unless they have control over it. Thunderbolt, anyone?

whiteknight

mike o007, you don't live in Canada do you? NFC is really taking off over here. A huge number of credit card payment systems and our debit payment systems are now using NFC (such as my local drug store and grocery store). These are the Mastercard and VISA "paypass" systems and such. In addition, our transit systems are being upgraded with NFC. Here in Vancouver, you use NFC-enabled Compass Cards to enter and exit the transit system. They'll soon expand that system to allow the use of mobile (BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Phone only of course). In addition, BC has upgraded our driver's licenses to a "BC Services Card" which will use NFC for multiple use cases such as visiting a doctor's office and tapping your card to identify yourself and your health care number for example. I think it's got some momentum!

mikeo007

I do live in Canada, and while I don't think it's quite as widespread as your making it sound, I do see NFC in several places. My question to you is: if you feel it has momentum, why do you feel the need to blame Apple for "holding it back"? I mean, you say NFC has momentum, on its own merits, yet in the same sentence say that because a single company has not adopted it, that they are holding it back.

whiteknight

The use-cases I provided are all examples of additional cards in your wallet. None of them are applicable to mobile devices yet. The adoption of NFC to mobile phones and tablets are limited because of Apple. Some organizations are trying it out, such as CIBC mobile wallet, but it hasn't been full-fledged. If Apple were to jump on board, you better believe I'd be be able to pay for my coffee, ride the bus, and visit my doctor by tapping my phone. But for now, I question whether it'll happen or I've got to remember my Compass Card before I leave the house.

mikeo007

And like I said above, if the use case is justified, they will adopt it. If there are only a handful of people like yourself who want to pay with their phone, or if there are major security concerns, then it would hardly be justified for them to adopt it.

Koko Pineda

And again, these features will come to newer model/s and iOS version. We, again will be restricted to everything, not unless our iPhones are subjected to new iOS version and/or newer model.

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ptboucher

Apple is in a unique position to bring home automation (at least on some level) to the masses. I'm not looking forward to what Apple will develop, as it's likely to be locked down as yet another part of the self-contained Apple ecosystem, but Apple probably has the ability and know-how to put out an interesting home automation product(s) with competitive pricing.

Dzejmo

Don't care about home automation right now. I want t see a wearable announced!

deckem

This is Apple's first foray and others will be joining. Microsoft has been working on the home forever, so it's sad that they haven't come out with something similar already. And if they keep developing Kinect (sigh) then the Star Trek home of tomorrow could become a reality today.

cloud12077

I would never buy this. Apple will charge 3 times as much, claiming it is better than everyone else out there. Then sue everyone who ever tries to creating home automation saying they were the first to do it. Lastly they will close the OS down making it impossible to do anything unless you own an iPhone. This is garbage.

Just my 2 cents and half of it went to taxes...

esiemens

Unless Apple decides to hop onto to some growing 'standard', they will be just like everyone else, unable to grow beyond a niche market.

I am installing Z-Wave in my home because my alarm panel (2Gig) and a MiCasaVerde Vera Lite work with it. Compare it to Insteon or Zigbee, they both have their positives and negatives, but until there is a standard, I have to buy something. At least with the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD battle, there were only two formats, but someone had to choose sides first, and for Sony, I believe it was their inclusion into the PS3 that won the war. If everyone chose like I did and went with Z-Wave, it would win out.

Un/Fortunately, I don't think Apple can just step in with their own hardware (outlets, switches, etc) and take over. I run Android, but at least my Vera Lite has a module to work with a Nest, and I am counting on that open design to keep it valid for years to come

secher

Bad idea if it's Apple... Not to be hating on their stuff, but as soon as they start making stuff for the home, they will start excluding all the great stuff there already is... Probably... :)