When Apple announces its revamped Apple TV (presumably at this year's WWDC conference), it'll take the stage not to disrupt the burgeoning home automation industry, but to lead it. The new Apple TV is expected to serve as the central hub for companies battling for a place in your home, and their share of a market that is expected to be larger than the computer, smartphone, tablet, connected car and wearable markets combined.
In the very near future, with the help of the connected device industry, Apple will let you say something into your iPhone like, "Hey, Siri. I'm hot," and your connected thermostat will adjust the temperature automatically (and, fingers crossed, confirm with "yes, you're a perfect 10; but just in case that's not what you meant, I turned the AC down").
When Apple announced its plans to automate our homes with HomeKit at last year's WWDC, it wasn't just offering a new marquee feature to its iPhone lineup — it was seizing an opportunity to unify a market that was quickly dividing itself into groups of inconsistent and incompatible (ergo virtually useless) technologies.
By offering a standardized framework that promises users privacy, security and seamless integration with hundreds of millions of existing devices, users get a safe and familiar way to do cool things with their iPhones and iPads and manufacturers get a home-automation platform to deliver their ground-breaking new products far more quickly and easily than they could ever have done on their own. Everyone wins.
Last year at WWDC, developers had a chance to see what Apple was planning with HomeKit, but the details regarding how it was all going to work for the user were a bit hazy — hopefully, we'll know a lot more on Monday.
What we do know is that Apple plans to offer a hardware bridge of some kind that will allow for some compatibility with older devices, meaning if you're already on a home-automation kick, many of the devices you already have in your home may be HomeKit-compatible. It comes with some limits, though. As an example, for security reasons, Apple won't allow accessories that aren't certified by Apple to use Wi-Fi to physically access your house.
Besides the ability to know the outside air pressure or monthly energy usage with the touch of a finger, some of coolest things it's expected you'll now be able to do will involve using scripted events (like Excel macros for your house). Apple didn't just intend to make it easier for manufacturers, though, it wanted to save users the frustration of having to work through a number of complicated and possibly conflicting interfaces (unlike Excel macros).
To that end, Apple has done its best to simplify all of the underlying technology of home automation into a single common language of triggers, services and actions that can be used to set up a series of complex actions that can be executed by simply speaking into your iPhone. Since all of your smart devices can now understand each other, they can work together to make some magical things happen.
For example, using HomeKit to set a scene, you could simply say, "Nighttime," and your newly hella-smart home will lock the doors, make sure the garage door and windows are closed, turn off the kitchen appliances and downstairs lights, dim the hallway lights upstairs and start playing Yani. (Sounds nice, right?)
Just to give you an idea of just how much smarter your home is about to get, here are just a few of the many HomeKit-compatible products you'll be seeing.
Elgato's Eve wireless sensors are an elegant way to track a host of data about your home. Turn electronics and appliances off and on and gain insights into how efficiently you're using energy. You'll also be able to tell if a door or window has been opened and for how long, which could adversely impact the indoor air quality, temperature and humidity of your home — all of which you can also monitor.
Lutron has put together a robust system to control your lights, window shades and home temperature from anywhere, so, of course, it has an Apple Watch app. It can use numerous bulb types — including dimple LEDs and CFLs — and supports geo-fencing and Siri integration. You can even turn on the lights to your car so you can finally shout "KITT, I need you!" into your wrist for some next-level Knight Rider action. That alone may be worth the price of admission.
Since Google bought the Nest thermostat (and recently announced its home automation initiative Brillo), it seems like the ecobee3 will inherit the thermostat duties for many Apple users in the near future. It also has an Apple Watch app and may be a bit smarter than the Nest, as it can talk to Siri — which would only lead to an awkward three-way argument in my dual-temperature-preference house — but I'm sure it will be awesome for everyone else.
There are a lot of very stylish smart locks out there but none that respond to your voice — except the Schlage Sense. If you don't have your iPhone on you to act as a Bluetooth key, simply use the numeric key pad. The lock has the highest security rating on the market and can even alert you when it detects a potential door attack.
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