Apple Reveals HomeKit at WWDC


One of the reveals from Apple during the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was the introduction of HomeKit. Quite a bit of the hype was given to the new OS X and iOS 8 during the keynote presentation to open the conference. While HomeKit is not a wished for iWatch announcement, or the new iPhone 6, the iOS application has opened a new door for Apple.

There are other home automation products on the market. AT&T offers home automation through the company’s Digital Life package. The fee based service allows users to take control of doors, lights, and appliances through tablets and various smartphones. HomeKit looks to take home automation to the next level.

Apple showed during the keynote address that HomeKit will securely pair with various devices around your home. Electronic locks and garage door openers will assist users with security, allowing you to lock and unlock the doors through an iOS device. This can give consumers a sense of peace on whether the house is locked up after leaving for work, school, or a night out on the town. HomeKit has the ability to work with compatible lights and lighting controllers giving users the option to turn on and off or dim light right from an iPhone or iPad. The app will also connect to thermostats giving the homeowner complete access to the climate controls of the home.

The information delivered from Apple showed that HomeKit was going to offer the same services already on the market. However, the developers in attendance at the WWDC opening session revealed that the new app was much more than just a rehash of the service options available now. From users iPads or iPhones, multiple groups may be created to provide a number of automation options. Lights in various rooms will be able to be turned on at the same time or individually. When one group is turned off, a single light could remain on. This could give the illusion that the home is occupied when the owner is actually on vacation. Setting multiple devices to multiple groups opens a whole new world of options to users.

Apple was not done with the home automation app. Developers at the Cupertino, California company integrated Siri into HomeKit. With the addition of the iOS digital assistant to the new app, users can now use voice commands to control any of the paired devices. Asking Siri to unlock the door or open the garage door will set Apple’s home automation apart from other options.

While users may want to jump onto the new offering from Apple when it is released this fall, early adopters could find that few if any of the existing locks, lights and appliances already in homes will work with HomeKit. Consumers will have the options to prepare homes for HomeKit with offerings from various partners, including iHome, Philips, Sylvania and many more. However, the cost for a new thermostat and comparable door locks, lights and anything else that the app will control may turn off many users. One nice solution for users is the ability to piece together an affordable solution and move into a more complex home automation set up over time.

Going into WWDC, many felt that the lack of new device announcements was disappointing. Looking past the lack of the iPhone 6 debut or a iWatch announcement, the software and OS reveal during the keynote were strong. HomeKit, Yosemite, HealthKit and iOS 8 will offer consumers a much more unified computing experience across the platforms. When HomeKit is released this fall, the world will have the ability to take the step towards a futuristic Jetson’s type home. Apple may want to start the development of a flying car and transform Siri into a robotic maid named Rosie.

By Carl Auer

The New York Times
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