Being able to control the lights, shades, security system, home theater components, and more from the comfort of your couch isn’t the stuff of science fiction anymore. The world of home automation, while still primarily on the fringes of consumer technology, has gradually made inroads into the mainstream over the last decade. Even the home automation iPad scene features a host of apps paired with associated equipment and systems allowing iOS aficionados to control their home using an iPad, iPhone, or even an iPod Touch.
A quick perusal of the iTunes App Store for “home automation” reveals a stunning array of different apps allowing the control of a variety of home devices. Some apps even enable the design of interfaces to use in an automation system. It appears the age of the smart house is upon us.
Home Automation: Another Battleground between Apple and Google?
Internet control of electronic devices is an area of great interest to the web search giant, Google. Their early 2014 purchase of the smart thermostat maker, Nest Labs, is one obvious indicator of this appeal. Google’s forays in this new area — called the “Internet of Things” — didn’t go unnoticed at the Cupertino home of Apple’s management team.
The Worldwide Developers Conference is where Apple generally announces new product initiatives. One of the hot rumors coming out of the pre-WWDC 2014 buzz is that Apple is poised to announce a new platform for home automation, as part of the new iOS 8 mobile operating system. So with the App Store currently filled with nearly hundreds of home automation apps, is Apple about to make them all obsolete?
For any Apple fans researching the installation of a home automation system, it might be a smart time to wait a bit to see what Apple introduces at WWDC 2014 in early June. Given their large coffers of cash — some of it recently used to buy Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones company — expect that Apple will have a robust collection of device manufacturers ready to support whatever home automation solution is part of iOS 8, if the rumors are true.
Apple iOS 8 and Home Aut>omation: a Closer Look at the Rumors
Apple has been combating the marriage between Google and Nest by allowing third-party device makers to support iOS with their own devices and apps. The Philips Hue light bulb is one example of a current device that allows a user to change colors and other features remotely with an app on their iOS device. AppleInsider feels the new iOS 8 home automation features will primarily focus on a branded device approval program that ensures the compatibility of third-party HA devices on the new mobile operating system — in a similar manner as the current “Made for iPhone” program, but specific to home automation.
While the long rumored Apple iWatch isn’t expected to be announced at WWDC 2014, expect that Apple’s own entry into the world of wearable tech to be a device of choice for managing an Apple home automation system in the future. The hallmark of any quality HA system is compatibility with a wide array of client platforms — Android, Mac, PC, and, of course, iOS. Many tech pundits predict that Apple announces the iWatch by the end of the 2014, which gives HA system developers enough time to develop iWatch compatible apps once Apple releases a developer version of the iWatch’s operating system.
Home Automation iPad: Wait for iOS 8?
If Apple’s iOS 8 home automation features simply involve third-party device licensing, there is no reason for anyone curious about home automation not to dive right in with some of the current systems compatible with iOS 7. Many manufacturers currently produce systems to allow the control of lights, thermostats, and more using mobile devices running iOS. Check out systems from Insteon, Control4, and the previously mentioned Philips. InControl also developed an interesting HA app that works with devices from Z-Wave.
In short, while Apple remains poised to invest more deeply in home automation with iOS 8, there are enough apps and systems currently available to satisfy the curiosity of anyone looking to make their home, a “smart home.”
Photo Credit: Tekneko