Apple may well be the next company to jump into home automation, with rumors circling about a smart device program that the company is ready to launch. While it is not official quite yet, rumors – originating from the Financial Times (subscription-based), which has a habit of breaking this kind of news – say that Apple is ready to expand from its stock of traditional electronic device into many other corners of the house. Currently under the name “Smart Home,” this expected Apple home automation system could change the way Apple does business — and give homeowners a whole new reason to consider the company.
Patent information filed by Apple early in 2014 has provided a glimpse of what this system could look like, and how it could change your house into the smart home of the future — as long as you remain an Apple fan.
All Eyes on the iPhone
The core of Apple home automation plans appears to be — to no surprise — the iPhone, which could function not only as a master control for all parts of your home, but also as a sort of sensor that immediately causes certain things to happen when your iPhone nears your house. The common example is your lights: Walk inside with your iPhone on, and your lights will automatically turn on, too (assuming all the associated apps are on, as well).
Of course, the lights are only one example of how an Apple home automation system could be used. The patent designs created by Apple appear to show a system similar to its current AirPlay wireless communication system — but where AirPlay is used primarily for traditional computer devices, this upgraded version would be able to interact with all kinds of home appliances. Home security systems, televisions, lamps, ovens — even cars are not out of the question. The goal is to create a system that responds based on location instead of timed schedules, making it immune to surprising events and changes of plan.
Waiting for More
Apple has yet to confirm its smart home plans … for now. Expectations are high for a full news release and introduction at the Worldwide Developers Conference (the WWDC) slated for early June 2014. Hopefully, at this time the company will unveil Apple home automation with a shiny new app, network hub, sensor, light bulb, fitness tracker, or some combination of those. The capabilities would probably be included in the next iPhone generation, which could boast some advanced and long-expected new technologies like NFC (near field communication), which would let the smartphone “talk” more easily to associated devices.
There is no reason to assume that Apple will be developing all of these smart devices by itself, either. Microsoft’s partnership with Insteon is allowing that particular tech giant to support and sell smart devices without actually producing them itself. Apple is usually a fan of keeping its hardware as in-house as possible, but partnerships with new manufacturers or even other tech firms remain a possibility.
Apple Home Automation
If this talk about Apple home automation has you all excited for future developments, but also short on patience, there are plenty of steps you can take right now to connect your iPhone to your home. A wide variety of smart devices function via apps that exist on iTunes. It may not be the proximity-based, free-for-all that Apple is envisioning, but these devices can certainly take you a step closer.
The smart thermostat Nest, for example, was recently bought by Google, but still functions via an app that is available on iOS, if you want a thermostat designed to learn your habits and adept to them to help you save money. Many of the latest LED light bulbs, such as the Philips Hue, also work via apps available for the iPhone. Smaller companies like Loxone and Revolv also offer their products with iOS-friendly apps.
Choosing these apps may make switching to similar Apple-related technology a little tougher, but if you are not sure whether you want Apple home automation, they are a great way to test the water.
Photo Credit: Matthew Pearce