Posted in Development
The smart home market is expected to grow to a whopping $58.68 billion by 2020, according to the Smart Homes Market - Trend and Forecast to 2020 report. That’s not surprising when you consider that smart homes harnesses the power of smart lightning, heating, air conditioning, security, computer, and multimedia devices to create a comfortable, secure, and energy-efficient home which can be controlled remotely over the Internet via mobile devices and computers.
At the forefront of the smart home revolution is the Apple iOS HomeKit unveiled in 2014. iOS HomeKit is not an application in itself but rather a framework that connects smart home accessories together and allows you to control them through your iPhone, iPad, or iPod using touch controls, Siri voice commands, or smart triggers.
Understanding iOS HomeKit
At this point in time, Apple’s iOS HomeKit is the most robust and promising smart home automation framework available, featuring a good selection of compatible accessories. The accessibly of the HomeKit is without a doubt one of its key advantages. All you need to use it is an iPhone running iOS 8.1 or later and a HomeKit-compatible device or appliance.
Apple has partnered with leading smart home devices and appliances manufacturers such as iHome, Philips, iDevices, Belkin, Haier, and offers home automation accessories compatible with HomeKit in its own official online store. These include some very interesting products such as the Anova Precision Cooker, Canary All-in-One Home Security System and Camera, Elgato Eve Room and Weather sensors, Ecobee Wi-Fi Thermostat, Phillips Hue Ambiance White and Color Light Bulbs, Lutron lighting systems, and the Chamberlain Universal Garage Door Controller.
Made for iPhone Certification Process
While the selection of HomeKit-ready accessories offered by Apple sounds pretty exciting already, there’s a process in place that actually controls their development - Apple requires that all manufacturers of iPhone smart home appliances join its Made for iPhone (MFI) certification program. In other words, all devices get tested for compatibility to ensure that they adhere to specific rules and security practices enforced by Apple. For example, all MFI-certified HomeKit accessories must include a custom encryption co-processor.
That smart home device manufacturers must first pass through the certification program to launch HomeKit-enabled devices is great for the quality of these devices, especially since it virtually eliminates compatibility issues. It gives Apple a tight quality control over HomeKit accessories, making sure they meet the high level of quality we have come to expect from the world's largest information technology company. On the other hand, it can slow down the rate at which new HomeKit accessories are launched on the market.
Apple’s HomeKit is easy to use, and this is one of the most important factors that drives its adoption. Once you get a compatible accessory and install it in your home, all you have to do is grab from the App Store the relevant app for that accessory. After installing the app, you can use your iPhone camera to scan the HomeKit setup code on the accessory packaging. This process, which takes only a few minutes, can be repeated for every different accessory you install. Your smart home can then be controlled straight from that app, which essentially acts as a remote control for every smart appliance or device you have in your home. There’s no complicated setup. It’s almost as easy as setting up a new printer, really.
More than that, however, you can use Siri to control your smart home using voice controls. A simple “Lights out!” command can instantly turn off smart lighting systems, TVs, and devices, put the air conditioning system on sleep mode, lower smart blinds, or turn off the music, sparing you the trouble of having to switch things off manually before getting into bed.
The true beauty of the HomeKit, however, boils down to how compatible accessories understand and respond to environmental triggers. Think of thermostats that smartly adjust the temperature in your home depending on the hour of the day, the room you are in, and your recorded preferences; smart lighting systems that turn on at your approach only to turn off the moment you are gone; or security cameras which send you an iPhone notification, together with images, at the slightest sign of intrusion.
HomeKit Alternatives Or What Samsung and Google Are Up To
Wonderful as it is, HomeKit is not, however, the only home automation platform available. Samsung offers its own alternative in the form of the Samsung Smart Home, which works in pretty much the same way but on Android, as well as SmartThings, a smart home remote control app, also for Android. The Samsung Smart Home isn’t yet as developed or as polished as the Apple HomeKit, but Samsung is known for catching up quickly.
Perhaps an even stronger competitor to the iOS HomeKit is Google’s Nest. In early 2014, Google purchased the home automation company Nest Labs, the makers of the Nest Learning Thermostat, a programmable, intelligent Wi-Fi thermostat that optimizes heating and cooling based on people’s schedules and preferences and enters a saving mode when nobody’s at home to conserve energy. After that acquisition, Google launched the developer program “Works with Nest”, providing manufacturers of smart devices with APIs through which they could link their devices with Nest products and control them remotely. As the Nest range of smart home appliances continues to grow, Nest (Google has kept the brand name) is likely to become one of the big competitors of the iOS HomeKit, if not the biggest.
The Bottom Line
Smart home technologies are definitely exciting, promising not only to make our homes more comfortable, but also to improve our energy efficiency. iOS HomeKit is right now the most developed smart home framework available, and it may well turn out to be yet another technological revolution that Apple has in store for us. Samsung and Google will likely provide stiff competition, but iOS HomeKit, with its wonderful capabilities, ease of use, and rigorous accessory certification program, packs a heavy punch, and may well dominate the smart home market for years to come.
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The smart home market is expected to grow to a whopping $58.68 billion by 2020, according to the Smart Homes Market - Trend and Forecast to 2020 report. That’s not surprising when you consider