Today at WWDC, Apple announced HomeKit.
After a week’s worth of blogosphere speculation, it was an understated entree into smart home for Apple, taking all of one minute of stage time for Apple to talk about the new effort.
But while HomeKit’s time on stage was short, I think it was an important first step with potentially long-term implications.
First, the basics:
-Homekit is a new component of iOS8, which will be a unifying software framework and network protocol to control different smart home devices
-HomeKit will enable single-app control of multiple devices. This means instead of using a different app for each point solution device, you can conceivably control a bunch of devices through one iPhone app.
-HomeKit will allow for Siri control of smart home devices. This is an important piece, as voice control of the smart home will be an important control interface going forward.
-Apple partnered with a number of different device makers for the initial HomeKit rollout, including Philips,
Lockitron, August, Honeywell, Kwikset, Haier, Schlage and more.
While the introduction of HomeKit was fairly short and perhaps disappointing to those looking for Apple to make a big splash, I think upon a little reflection it was a good first step.
Here are some of my initial thoughts on HomeKit:
-Apple is taking a first step to be a unifying software control point for the smart home. There is a whole bunch of balkanization in the smart home control space, and by presenting a control framework with its own smart home network protocol, Apple will be an important partner for point solution providers.
-I think those who may be most threatened by Apple’s move today are those who offer complete smart home control frameworks. Notice that all of the initial partners are basically all point solution providers (with maybe the exception of Honeywell). None of the partners are those companies who offer smart home control platform - Control4, SmartThings, Revolv, INSTEON - but instead companies who make products that would tie into those platforms. The very fact they mentioned device pairing and creation of “scenes” is something I think would scare, in particular, companies like Control4 and AMX, as this is a common diffentiator of higher-end smart home systems.
-When you tie together some of the new pieces of OSX Yosemite and iOS8, such as the new continuity feature, you can start to envision some interesting potential for HomeKit. The idea of continuous smart home experiences is one I highlight in my new report at Gigaom, where smart connected device experiences are no longer islands unto themselves, but instead one where one experience (like opening the garage door upon arrival) leads into the next scene (turning on lights and oven).
-A unified app control point for smart home is something that will be important going forward. By allowing one app control for a hodgepodge of smart devices, you allow the consumer to avoid app overload and confusion. While I expect point solution device makers to continue to develop their own apps, I have no doubt most would see this working with Apple to integrate their device as a net positive.
-Siri voice integration may be the biggest news here. I have long thought voice control of a smart home is going to be big, and Apple opening up Siri through HomeKit puts them ahead of others here (namely Google) in the race for the voice-controlled smart home.
I’ll have more thoughts in coming days, so stay tuned.
You can hear me talk about HomeKit in this quick special edition of the Smart Home Show: