Konkana Khaund's Blog

With Apple’s HomeKit Achieving a Smart Home is Just an App Away

04 Jun 2015 | by Konkana Khaund
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On Monday June 8, 2015, at the company’s Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco Apple is expected to announce further details of its plans to make the iPhone the remote operating system for smart homes.

Apple's smart home platform - HomeKit can now be controlled by an iOS device. With this announcement we can now look forward to a fully orchestrated smart home becoming an early possibility. A smart home ideally should represent the ultimate in connected living. However, overwhelming reference to “connectedness” powered by Internet-of-Things has underplayed the real degree of connectedness that characterizes a smart home today.

Despite the slew of products released into this market, the fundamental issue still remains – who is orchestrating the smart home? While early tech savvy adopters have to a fair extent managed to get their devices, appliances, security, entertainment, telemetry and all other potentially lifestyle supporting functions integrate and intercommunicate, the truth is that the smart home is still largely a patchwork of systems, devices, application and services. Most smart home products are anything but what consumers want them to be – easy to configure and control.

HomeKit could significantly change these perceptions as now a home owner would have a single platform that enables smart devices to communicate with, and be controlled by an iOS device, as well as connect other HomeKit-compatible devices with an iOS device by simply downloading the accompanying app. With numerous activities of our daily lives virtually being dependent on one app or another, this could mean the ultimate simplification in creating and controlling a smart home. And with HomeKit compatible devices such as the iHome smartplug, ecobee wireless thermostat and other devices from manufacturers like Insteon already gaining market attention, now home owners upgrading to smart home technologies can do so with ease and without having to consider costly upgrades of gadgetry just to get smart devices from various manufacturers to connect and intercommunicate.

However, this may not propel consumers to overnight become smart home enthusiasts. By all measures this market is poised for gradual and long-term growth, as opposed to immediate peaks. Apple's smart phones' success may far from repeat itself with their smart home strategy. However, the early signs of market development are highly encouraging, given the interests from other software and Internet technology giants like Google, Intel, Samsung and Microsoft.

Samsung’s smart appliances are already gaining market presence. And their complete range of smart appliances that will connect to the Internet is expected to be market-ready in less than five years. With Apple making concerted moves into the smart homes market, Google is not far behind either. Google’s Brillo home operating platform and Weave-compatible third party home devices that Google will certify is expected to make Google a strong contender in the growing ecosystem of smart home solution providers.

While this is still early play, one cannot ignore the brand equity that Apple enjoys over any of its tech counterparts that could create a bias for Apple over the others in this emerging market. The iPhone’s popularity will play a key role in helping Apple capitalize on this hot market opportunity. Consumers’ proven adaptability to everything Apple could go a long way in ensuring early success. The ability to orchestrate the smart home seamlessly is one key niche that Apple is trying to fulfill here. But enabling it with an in-home central hub with another Apple product – Apple TV is a clever way of trying to achieve that. Third generation or later Apple TV will act as the central control point for all HomeKit compatible connected items within the home that consumers can control with their iOS device remotely.

This could indeed dismantle the artificial strongholds that were being created so far within the smart home ecosystem by telecom/entertainment and security solution providers by virtue of their offerings being ‘sticky.’ Though it is premature to predict if their stronghold would be fully replaced by the domination of Apple, Google and others, it would not be wholly unlikely to witness this new wave of players becoming extremely important in delivering to a smart home.

As for the consumer, this would mean bridging an important gap in their experience of a smart home. However, it would still be a gradual transition in demand only, unlike what could be expected in case of smart phones or tablets.