One sign that Home Automation is becoming the new must-have in consumer technology involved the announcement of Apple HomeKit, at Cupertino’s Worldwide Developers Conference held last year. With Apple joining the fray, soon everyone in your neighborhood will be controlling their lights, doors, and more using their iPhone or iPad from the comfort of their couch. Fortune Magazine recently reported that Apple is delaying the roll out of their HA product, supposedly because of difficulties getting the software to work on the embedded devices used in the system. For what it’s worth, Apple says the first devices are coming next month.
It is reasonable to expect more news about HomeKit to hit the wire at next month’s Worldwide Developers Conference. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at Apple’s foray into the digital smart home and what issues are hampering its timely release.
Apple HomeKit — What is It?
As mentioned earlier, HomeKit first entered the tech world’s consciousness with the announcement of iOS 8 at last year’s WWDC. Since then, Apple has remained essentially silent on the product, other than to refute the Fortune Magazine story on the system’s supposed delay.
Like most other modern Home Automation systems, HomeKit allows you to control a variety of lights, thermostats, door locks, cameras, and more using your iOS device, including voice interaction provided by Siri. Device actions can also be combined into “scenes,” which, for example, can allow you to lock all doors and turn out the lights with one simple button tap when it is time for bed. The system also promises a secure pairing between your devices and iPhone or iPad; it is assumed that HomeKit works without a hub, and the system devices talk to each other as well as your iOS device using a common protocol.
Apple introduced a hardware certification program from HomeKit last November, and it is expected that many device manufacturers are currently hurrying to finish their certified products in time for the system’s initial release. Once again, the smart money probably rests on at least some of these early adopters being part of a WWDC presentation on HomeKit next month.
What about this supposed HomeKit Delay?
Fortune Magazine talked to someone close to the HomeKit project — whether it was somebody at Apple or someone from a device manufacturer is not clear — who claimed Apple is encountering difficulty with the HomeKit software’s memory footprint. In short, embedded devices generally don’t offer the copious amounts of RAM found in smartphones, tablets, or desktop computers, so developers need to work extra hard to get their software to “fit” on the lights, locks, and more used in HomeKit. Fortune’s source claimed the entire system crashed during the discovery process where HomeKit tries to find the compatible devices installed in your home.
One of Apple’s major selling points of HomeKit is its ease of use. You simply need to plug in a device and connect it to your home’s wireless network. So it would make sense to delay the system’s roll out if that functionality isn’t working perfectly. On the other hand, some manufacturers successfully demoed prototype HomeKit compatible devices — even within a “scene” — at this year’s CES in January.
As discussed earlier, Apple did speak up on HomeKit to refute the Fortune report — a fact noted by Fortune in their article. “HomeKit [hardware certification] has been available for just a few months and we already have dozens of partners who have committed to bringing HomeKit accessories to market and we’re looking forward to the first ones coming next month,” said Trudy Muller, an Apple spokesperson. Ultimately, we all need to wait another month to see what Apple announces regarding HomeKit; there are still questions about the potential compatibility with Apple TV, allowing “big screen” control of your HA system — a feature offered by Comcast’s XFINITY Home.
It is reasonable to expect Apple to successfully roll out HomeKit whether it happens in June or this coming fall. If you are already an Apple fan and curious about the growing world of Home Automation, Cupertino’s solution just might be your best bet.