Among Apple’s announcements at WWDC, HomeKit was definitely one of the stand-outs. It’s a way to control all of your Smart Home devices through one easy interface, assuming that said devices are enabled products from partnered brands.
HomeKit is not a distinct app per se, rather it looks like it will function mostly Siri integration, at least at first. Whether or not Apple will be releasing some kind of OSX hub, or even a separate iHub kind of product, is anybody’s guess.
The example given by Apple was picking up Siri (which you can now just say “Hey Siri” to activate) was “Siri, get ready for bed”, at which point your home’s doors would lock and the lights dim. This in itself is very impressive, bordering on futuristic, but looking at Apple’s initial list of partners the possibilities are much broader.
The greater proportion of these companies make phone-controlled lights. Probably the most famous of these is the Philips HUE light. HUE is an LED-based lighting system that can be dimmed, adjusted to a huge number of colours and hues (get it?), and set to turn on or off based on a schedule.
August is a smartlock maker, and probably our favourite one. Like other smartlocks, you can open and lock your house from within the app. Unlike the competition, the mechanism is only placed on the inside of the door. This means that your regular lock stays on the outside, which is a bonus because some smartlock products are reportedly easy to force if you have the right tools.
Better still, you can set the door to automatically open as you approach and lock as you leave the house. You can grant other people temporary or permanent access, even restricting to a recurring timeframe such as 9am-midday on Saturdays. It also keeps a log of who’s come and gone, and if the doors have been opened while you’ve been away.
Chamberlain is essentially the same as the August smartlock, except they do garage doors.
SkyBell is not one of the most life-changing items on the list, but it’s definitely very cool. The product itself is called “iDoorCam”, which is unfortunate and confusing. You’d think ‘SkyBell’ would be a shoe-in, which is a far superior name.
The iDoorCam is a very simple concept. It’s a doorbell with a camera, microphone, speaker and motion sensor built in. Whenever your door buzzes, a video feed is sent to your phone. No matter where you are you can talk to the person at the door and give them instructions of where to meet you or leave a package.
iHome makes smartphone-controlled sound systems, which is going to be a necessary addition to any home network. You can also set alarm clocks, radio presets and a few other things all from within their apps.
Honeywell and Netatmo make thermostats and weather monitoring devices. The implications here should be immediately obvious to anyone that lives in hot or cold climates. It can take way too long to get your house to the right temperature sometimes. It’s best to set things going before you even get home.
iDevice mostly specialises in cooking thermometers, which doesn’t sound like much but it means you can stick it in your meat, set it to cook and walk away. When it’s done you can get notified, providing you with a perfect roast with minimal effort.
Withings specialises in health-related stuff. We’re not too sure what they’re doing partnered with HomeKit, but the more the merrier.
Teamwork makes everyone happy
Smart Home tech is a burgeoning market right now. You can get all sorts of awesome gizmos that you could only have dreamed of a decade ago. Unfortunately, a problem appears when you start turning your collection of smart devices in to a ‘Smart House’.
Each gadget tends to work on its own app. There have been some attempts to group these products together in order to make things easier, but so far there has been little success.
With a massive company like Apple integrating the ability to connect with products right in to its OS, things can become much simpler. Not just that, but according to Apple’s demonstration you could control multiple products with one pre-set command.