At each Apple event, we continue to see tidbits of Apple’s plans for IoT (Internet of Things) with its Apple HomeKit technology. But despite big statements the company is largely teasing at the edges of the IoT revolution.
At this week’s event Apple CEO, Tim Cook injected Apple HomeKit’s prominent new role in the upcoming iOS 10 mobile operating system. “This is a huge moment for home automation,” says Cook. “This is the first time that home automation has been integrated into a major platform…” referring to iOS 10, “and it all starts here with the Home App.”
The Home App is built in prominently into iOS 10. And it will serve as the user-interface for connected, certified HomeKit™ devices in the home. It will even feature Apple Watch functionality so that across iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch users have various ways to do home automation.
The Role of Apple TV in Home Automation
While most home automation devices will work simply with the Home App on any iOS 10 device, Apple touts its Apple TV as a home “automation hub.” On its website, it says, “With Apple TV as your home hub, you can control your house from just about anywhere.”
Apple notes that what Apple TV can do apparently beyond the Home App in iOS 10 is carry out certain tasks automatically. But does Apple TV hardware really have what it takes to stack up against other home automation options? Ovum senior analyst Francesco Radicati doesn’t think so. “I actually have trouble seeing Apple getting more involved in the IoT/connected home space in the short term,” says Radicati. “Ovum believes that though the fourth-generation Apple TV was an improvement to the user experience, it requires a significant hardware upgrade to present meaningful competition to other connected home hubs.”
Touting Siri’s Role
Tim Cook said this week that not only do Apple customers have the ability to control home automation devices via Control Center in iOS 10 but also through Siri as well. This will be one of the most important spaces to watch as Apple competes with major, big brand manufacturers who are today using voice recognition technology to enable customers to implement automation by speaking commands.
When it comes to systems you talk to, the Amazon Echo is the prime competition Apple is up against. This product has captured the attention of the public. For Siri to play a starring role in voice-activated home automation today Apple will be asking you to speak to your iOS 10 device (your iPhone most likely) and in that regard an Apple Watch you have on your body would be most efficient. Whether AppleTV will respond to the Amazon Echo more directly or Apple will take another route for voice-activated home automation is still uncertain.
A Vast Market
What is not uncertain is the vast size of the IoT’s market. The home automation market is just one massive segment of the even larger buildings automation market which we hope Apple also entertains options for. For now Apple’s IoT connected home plans may seem modest with respect to where it could be. Cook touted, “…virtually every major manufacturer of home automation devices now supports HomeKit. And there are over 100 products coming to the market this year.”
For the second time in a row, Apple has put up a slide in one of its keynotes listing what seems like all the major home automation players and some of the biggest manufacturers of products for buildings worldwide.
Here are some of the big boys in home devices and automation market that Cook listed on his slide. We have listed an AHK after the name for the ones who mention Apple HomeKit on their websites somewhere.
- Carrier — One of the biggest names in HVAC and air quality control systems in the US.
- Honeywell — One of the biggest names in thermostat controls. – AHK
- Velux — the leader in skylight window systems worldwide.
- Schlage — a worldwide leader in door locks. – AHK
- Leviton — a worldwide global manufacturer of lighting control systems – AHK
- Lutron – another worldwide global manufacturer of lighting control systems – AHK
- Hunter — a global leader in window shade devices.
- LiftMaster — a worldwide leading manufacturer of garage door openers
As you can see most of these selected global brands have Apple HomeKit information on their websites. Lutron and Honeywell, in particular, stood out with major Apple HomeKit information in prime spots on their sites. Many companies have Apple devices app compatibility without referring to HomeKit, as for example at Hunter.
“We are really excited about HomeKit,” says Cook this week, “and we think this is going to be a really big deal.” Even so, Apple will have tremendous competition in the home or buildings automation space and yet this is its most visible IoT strategy.
What will we see in the near future?
Ovum senior analyst Francesco Radicati doesn’t expect much. “For the next 12 months, I expect to see more device/OEM partners offering HomeKit certified devices, but it will remain something of an afterthought to Apple’s core business of mobile devices.”
[Editor’s note: We corrected this article to clarify that Ovum senior analyst Francesco Radicati is not UK-based. He is, in fact, US-based in California. Ovum itself has headquarters in the United Kingdom. – 2:07pm EDT, 9 Sep 2016.]