Apple’s HomeKit platform was supposed to the centre of the future smart home – or at least if you use an iOS device. Unfortunately for Apple HomeKit did not really take off the way it wanted and now, two iOS versions later, the company is reaffirming its commitment to the platform with a new App dubbed Apple Home.
Apple Home is a key addition to the HomeKit universe, as it brings all the devices into one central App – rather than forcing users to use Siri. The Apple Home App allows users to control their devices remotely from anywhere in the world with a simple-to-use user interface and support for over a few dozen products.
It has been a long time coming – with users begging for a dedicated App since HomeKit launched alongside iOS 8. It was especially strange for the platform to forgo a central control App as many of its competitors, including Samsung’s SmartThings, made a big deal about how users could control everything from within one App, rather than many.
The Apple Home App delay is a key theme with the entire HomeKit debacale. The iPhone-maker has struggled to get the platform off the ground against fierce competition from established smart home makers and their consumer counterparts, such as SmartThings and the Works with Nest program. It’s launch also occurred just months before Amazon revealed the Echo – an always-listening device that has garnered universal praise from smart home enthusiasts.
Apple’s other problem with HomeKit is the fact that device manufacturers took an age to support the platform. Two years after its initial launch still only a few dozen products support the platform and many of them are power outlets available exclusively in the US. Apple says that will soon change however, with ‘almost 100 more’ products coming in the near future.
Despite those problems, Apple has potentially spent its time well – with the company hoping to leverage the platform’s familiarity and growth over the past year or so to its advantage. Launching the Apple Home App now will allow people to get going with Internet of Things-enabled devices right away, rather than waiting for their favourite products to come out.
From launch Apple Home should have support for garage doors, thermostats, locks, sensors, fans, window shades, security systems, lights, power outlets, air conditioners, cameras, doorbells, air purifiers and humidifiers. That’s a much better sell than trying to get users to adopt a platform that has just a handful of products.
While Apple Home is a step in the right direction for the company, it’s hardly revolutionary. The App mimics what a number of third-party HomeKit Apps already achieve and is essentially Apple’s alternative to the likes of SmartThings – a smart home ecosystem which already supports a wide range of devices, including those using the Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols.
One thing that makes HomeKit a desirable home automation solution for iOS users however is the fact that Apple is baking the Home App into the OS’ Control Centre. That means people will be able to control devices from directly within the OS itself without ever launching the App – that’s a far more elegant solution than what is currently offered by third-parties.
Speed and simplicity of control seems to be a common theme for the Apple Home App as well. Whether it’s receiving a notification that someone is at the door and being able to open the door from the same notification, or the fact that it has built-in support for scenes, Apple clearly wants the smart home of the future to feel like it’s not even there.
Apple Home is coming in iOS 10 and won’t be exclusive to the iPhone. While that doesn’t mean that Android and Windows users will be able to control their homes using the HomeKit platform, users with an Apple TV, iPad or Apple Watch will get Apple Home functionality.
iOS 10 and Apple Home should launch in September but it remains to be seen what impact the new App will have on the professional installation market, will there be functionality opportunities? Will it raise awareness for more bespoke professionally tailored systems? Only time will tell.