The home is where we spend our time, living, sleeping, socializing — and, yes, working.
That being said, it's no surprise there has been a significant amount of innovation around the smart home concept in recent years. New products offering Internet connectivity have burst onto the market — and many of them offer real value in the smart home space.
Despite my eagerness and anticipation for each new smart home product that is released, each has also been meet with a certain frustration and trepidation. The big problem: I generally need to access or use each new product on a different platform.
That's a barrier to development of the Internet of Things (IoT). But now, here comes Apple.
Challenges of Fragmentation
The fragmentation in the smart home space has always been one of its largest flaws. The consumer has been left having to manage multiple apps for different products, unless they purchase a suite from one manufacturer. But who wants to be constrained to just those offerings from one company?
Apple is taking aim at pulling the smart home space together with its recently announced HomeKit. This will allow companies which make products in the smart home or IoT space to develop it to work with the Apple platform, which in turn will allow the end user to control all their devices from a single app, which of course will run on their iPhone or iPad.
Apple further simplifies matters for the user with its MFi (Made For iPhone/iPad) certification. Creating the certification to go with the HomeKit was a smart move. It allows customers to know when they buy an item that it will work with the Apple platform and also allows companies on board with Apple to market this fact, perhaps adding a bit more wind to the sails for some smart home products.
By the same token, the MFi certification allows Apple to add value to its partners right out of the gate. By being able to brand their smart home devices as MFi certified, they could automatically add some additional appeal to the end user who might be interested in the HomeKit platform.
Step in the Right Direction
From my view, bringing a slew of smart home products together on a single platform and tossing in some nice features, which Apples is doing, is a significant step forward in the smart home. At the same time, there are some drawbacks to a single company having control over a platform and being able to deem who has access.
Apple taking this role in the smart home space allows it to control the experience for the users, which is something it has been traditionally good at. I would feel safe arguing the point that Apple has some of the best designed user interfaces (UIs) in the industry, and bringing that across to the smart home market will go a long way in fostering user adoption.
Something big from the UI perspective is that Apple is integrating Siri with the HomeKit, which will allow users to control their smart homes via voice commands. Apple has also included device profiles in the HomeKit design, which will allow a user to issue a single word command to Siri like “sleep” or “away” to set all the devices to a preconfigured setting for that profile, a nice feature to streamline the interactions with the smart home.
Can't We All Get Along?
The Apple HomeKit will allow manufactures to open up their products to work in conjunction with others across the Apple platform.
Allowing the connected devices from different manufactures to work across the common platform means data from multiple devices will be available for back end analytics, which will lead to a richer and more personalized marketing scheme. That will benefit all the companies involved as well as the end user by allowing companies a more complete look at the smart how data. It will also allow them to further tailor the marketing experience for each user.
Apple stepping into the smart home space improves the user experience on multiple levels. It provides the ability for companies to work together and improve their products and services based on the combined data they can capture through the Apple HomeKit platform while also streamlining the experience for their customers.
Despite all the benefits that will more than likely come to the smart home market as a result of the Apple HomeKit, there are some downsides to mention. For starters, not everyone owns Apple devices and as of yet there is no Android equivalent to the HomeKit, but that’s just the beginning.
As with anything that falls under the IoT umbrella, the idea of privacy and security need to be closely scrutinized.
With all devices talking back through a common platform, it gives a single point of vulnerability for all the user data that is collected from these devices. The data we generate in our home needs to be protected with the utmost priority.
Given the trend of user data being compromised over the past several years, it’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination to think Apple and the data of its HomeKit connected devices could be the target of such an attack.
Though it's great that Apple has developed a common platform for dissimilar devices, it is only advantageous for those companies willing to go through Apple’s process to get MFi certification. That could leave a lot of companies out in the cold, assuming the HomeKit catches on.
Apple stepping in as the platform for the smart home and being able to decide who gets to play in that space gives it a large amount of power to steer the direction of the smart home market. If a company wants to get MFi certified to work with Apple devices but its vision does not line up with Apple's, one has to wonder if it will be allowed to play.
Here's the Deal
There is little doubt that Apple HomeKit will go a long way to improve the overall experience of the smart home for their customers. It provides a strong marketing tool for companies who partner with Apple, as well as a great data collection platform that could lead to substantially improved marketing based off of smart home data.
Nonetheless, I still find that I am hesitant about one company being able to wield such influence over what will likely be a sizable chunk of the IoT. So while I am looking forward to the Apple Home Kit, I am also leery about its arrival.
How do you feel?