Introduction to HomeKit
It seemed as if Apple was taking over the household with its Macs, iPhones, iPads and the Apple TV, but now the Cupertino company wants to control your smart home.
That may happen starting with the iPhone 6S in September with its still vague HomeKit intentions. It wasn't a big focus at June's WWDC, but the company did add iOS 9 support for motorized window shades and new sensor classes, like motion and carbon-monoxide detectors.
Modest as they may seem, these impressive additions all work toward making your home more efficient. It could rival Google's convenient and energy-efficient Nest innovations.
Will the iPhone 6S be the central hub for your smart home? Apple is clearly pushing its software in that direction from everything that we have seen so far.
What is HomeKit?
Home automation is in a state of chaos, requiring an individual application for each smart home component you buy. Apple aims to simplify this through the HomeKit framework, which was originally thought to be built into iOS 8, but now we won't see it until iOS 9 launches this fall alongside the iPhone 6S.
Apple created the HomeKit framework so that any smart home device from any manufacturer could be understood without the need for an individual application for each component you buy. Not only that, but HomeKit also takes advantage of Siri, allowing you to control your home with just your device and your voice.
In layman's terms, HomeKit brings all smart home components under a single umbrella over its traditional, cluttered mess. This allows for simple, efficient, and easy access to all of your smart home products. In the words of Nest, home automation "focuses on the little things so you can focus on the big things."
How is HomeKit being improved in iOS 9?
HomeKit is receiving some very nice improvements in iOS 9, all of which Apple introduced during WWDC 2015 in early June. There is now support for motorized window shades, along with the aforementioned new sensor classes, such as motion and carbon-monoxide detectors, to name a couple.
Another extremely useful addition is the compatibility with home security systems, which could mean that it will support popular services like ADT, Alarm Relay, Vivint, etc. There are also looming reports that Google and Apple could get into the home security business.
When it lands this autumn, iOS 9 will now let you securely access your home via iCloud, whether that be on your iPhone or Apple Watch (as of watchOS 2.0, which should launch this fall alongside or not long after iOS 9 hits devices).
The iPhone 6S could control your home
For the mobile world, smart homes are the next big thing, and many companies are jumping on this train, with Google even going as far as purchasing home automation company Nest early last year. That said, Apple needs to stay competitive in this field, and HomeKit is its weapon to do just that.
HomeKit will obviously be available on any device running iOS 9 or watchOS 2.0, but the coming iPhone 6S, thanks to iOS 9, will be able to easily control your home through Wi-Fi, and for some devices, maybe even Bluetooth. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of problems to solve before that becomes a full reality. At this point, manufacturers need to make their smart home devices compatible with HomeKit. While many are jumping on board, more well-known smart home companies may not agree, such as Nest, due to being a competitor in the field.
Despite that, the iPhone 6S, combined with the powers of HomeKit, will be able to power our houses in new ways through Wi-Fi technology. The iPhone 6S will no doubt act as the remote for everything, whether it be as setting scheduled thermostat settings to something as simple as turning on your TV. If HomeKit provides a good interface for the iPhone 6S to access all of this tech, home automation will have a big player in the field.
The iPhone 6S also has the potential to control the home through Bluetooth technology. This is purely speculation, but if Apple can make transferring files efficient, easy, and seamlessly through AirDrop and other technologies, there's no doubt they'll be able to take Bluetooth to a new level to offer seamless home automation. Imagine being able to shut your lights off or transfer files to your Apple TV through a two-step process. The technology is there, and Apple can easily implement it in the iPhone 6S.
That said, the iPhone 6S has the potential to control your home. There's no doubt about this, however, compatible smart home components just aren't available to the public yet. There's also the aspect that many could be paranoid about smart home technologies due to just how new of a technology it is.
Potential HomeKit problems for iPhone 6S
HomeKit is rather useful, but as of right now, it's really only appealing to technology enthusiasts. It'll take some time for the everyday person to accept the idea, as is the case with almost any new technology. Back when the Internet was in its infancy, it took awhile to catch on, and so did smartphones. It's difficult to say, but many people are paranoid, and we're just not ready to accept home automation from a cultural standpoint.
That's the same reason why Google Glass hasn't hit the ground running: people look at it and think it's weird. I remember listening to an episode of the Vergecast where Joshua Topolsky, Chris Ziegler, and David Pierce discussed walking around New York City with Google's wearable. He received many interesting remarks, one of which was "can you see through my clothes with that thing on your head?" People are paranoid, and that probably has a lot to deal with the lack of public excitement around wearables, smart home automation, and other technologies.
There's also the aspect that consumers don't see a need for smart home components yet. They don't see how it will truly benefit their lives. We all know how smartphones have benefited us: we can send emails faster, schedule and track things more efficiently and complete tasks on the go. Smart homes are beneficial: they can automatically alert authorities in the case of a fire or break-in and change your thermostat from work, for starters. However, consumers have yet to decide whether they may "need" this simplifying technology, at least not yet.
So yes, HomeKit is useful, and with it, the iPhone 6S will be able to easily control our homes. But again, it won't be a widely used feature – at least initially – because the public is wary of adapting to these new technologies yet.
How will HomeKit work with the iPhone 6S?
As of this writing, there's no confirmation, but many expect Apple will offer an official app called Home alongside the 6S to control all of your HomeKit devices. However, other rumors indicate that HomeKit will be exclusively operated through Siri.
Again, there's no indication in any official capacity, but you will allegedly be able to create visual representations of rooms with the Home app. This will allow you to easily organize your HomeKit devices for more efficient remote operation. It'll be interesting to see how this works, especially if Apple decides against a central application and has HomeKit operated exclusively through the company's voice assistant.
Either way, we're not entirely sure what Apple's plan of action is, and we likely won't hear anything in an official capacity until we're closer to launch day. Regardless, it's already clear that the iPhone 6S and HomeKit have the potential to change how you interact with your home, specifically your living room.
The war for your living room
There are a lot of companies fighting for your living room, whether it be Microsoft with the Xbox One, Sony with the PS4, Google with the Android TV, or even Apple with its Apple TV and possibly a coming refresh this fall. The living room is largely unclaimed space, as far as technology goes. And Apple wants to be at the center of that with its Apple TV.
While there are some rumors that Apple will release a Home app to control your smart home technologies, other rumors say that the Apple TV will be the central hub for your smart home. That's not to say it will replace the iPhone 6S as the gateway to your automated products, as the handset will easily be the go-to device while you're away or moving about your home. After all, what do you always have next to you? Your smartphone.
With the iPhone 6S, you will not only be able to access your home entertainment, but also be able to adjust your thermostat, turn your lights on or off, monitor your home via smart security cameras, and so on. Apple's goal to winning your living room is to make it not only as convenient as possible, but also to be the place for on-demand entertainment: that's the primary goal of taking over your living room.
All of the hardware and software is available to do this, and more is being added every day – we're just waiting on Apple to release the iPhone 6S. Paired with iOS 9's HomeKit, the iPhone 6S will be the gateway to all of your smart home tech.
The only problem is that Apple is already seeing fierce competition in this regard. Amazon's already offering the Amazon Echo, convenient grocery services like Amazon Fresh and the Dash buttons, and living room entertainment through Amazon Fire TV.
Remember, smart home technology is still in its infancy, and is expanding at a rapid rate, but it might not be the next big step. The next big leap could be completely based around convenience, as Amazon seems to think, not flashy gadgets.
Either way, the smart home is here, and while the iPhone 6S may not be able to control our entire home, it can control your living room really well. And, for right now, that seems to be all that matters to big players in the tech industry.
What about your entire home?
In 2015, creating an entirely automated home is difficult, particularly because of how many industries your home falls into: groceries, cookware, appliances, entertainment, the home office, books, the bedroom and so on. It's an extremely difficult undertaking, something that all the big tech firms are working on. And Apple's staking its claim for the home through HomeKit in the iPhone 6S.
Any company that comes out with a smart home product can make it HomeKit-compatible, thus bringing it into Apple's ecosystem. So, while you may not be able to control your entire home in 2015 with the iPhone 6S, Apple is just waiting on smart home companies to provide those products.
There are a lot of devices out there to help further the smart home movement, but many of them aren't even close to official availability. There are also some points that need to be defined regarding home automation. For instance, what does a smart home look like? And after answering that as an industry, products need to be made to reflect that answer.
In the end, smart home technology is here, and it should work wonderfully with the iPhone 6S, but Apple and its rivals could be jumping the gun here.
What do you think about the iPhone 6S and HomeKit? Could you imagine yourself purchasing a few HomeKit devices to see just how well it works? Better yet, could you imagine actively using smart home tech in your home?