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Connected Homes June 2014 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Kyle M. Whitman

Apple HomeKit

Why is this topic significant?

Apple has announced a new standard for connecting home-automation peripherals from multiple manufacturers together with Apple devices, which will act as control hubs for the peripherals. The standard allows for simplified control of many devices at once via features built in to Apple's operating system.

Description

In early June 2014, Apple announced details of a new proprietary home-automation interface and communications standard that will appear as part of iOS 8, the forthcoming version of the company's mobile operating-system software that runs Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. The new standard, HomeKit, will allow many types of home-automation peripherals from different manufacturers to interface with iOS devices using a secure wireless connection. Users of Apple's "iDevices" will be able to control these peripherals. HomeKit will present such users with a single unified interface for controlling all their connected home-automation peripherals and will allow users to issue commands using iOS core features such as the Siri voice-assistant software. HomeKit's control software supports functions that are common in dedicated home-automation controllers, including the ability to set up "scenes" (changing multiple settings on multiple peripherals at once in response to a single user input) and "events" (changing peripherals' settings automatically in response to user-specified conditions). Thus far, Apple has announced that several major home-automation players, including Honeywell and Philips, will be supporting HomeKit. Philips has previously offered Hue, an LED-lighting solution with wireless smart control that originally was exclusive to Apple devices (in that it required an iOS application for control).

Implications

Apple's HomeKit represents yet another proprietary home-automation standard in what is already a highly fragmented market. But HomeKit appears to offer some compelling functionality in the form of its tight integration with Apple's operating system and the absence of a requirement to use a dedicated control device as a bridge between home-automation peripherals and the mobile device that controls them. Apple is known for its high-quality user-interface designs and could end up delivering an attractive and easy-to-use experience for HomeKit users that could improve user engagement with home automation. But an attractive interface might not be enough to motivate mass adoption. Apple's success will also depend on home-automation peripheral-manufacturer support and on how easy it is to set up new devices and configure events and scenes.

Impacts/Disruptions

HomeKit is not "home automation in a box," but it comes closer to embodying that elusive concept than previous home-automation efforts from other providers have done. Even if it does not succeed, HomeKit could nevertheless serve as a model for other home-automation stakeholders. Other companies, such as Google and Vera, could deploy similar solutions that prioritize ease of use, hub-free operation, and ability to work with any smartphone (including iPhones) and that can also interoperate with existing home-automation gear that uses Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, or other open-communication standards.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Low

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now

Opportunitites in the following industry areas:

Home automation, home networking, mobile-computing devices, broadband connectivity, wireless networking

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

A New Vision for Home Security

Why is this topic significant?

Companies are beginning to offer network-connected home-security solutions that rely on machine vision and monitoring of interior spaces. These solutions offer a level of coverage and performance that is comparable to that of conventional home-security systems that rely on many discrete sensors to monitor a home's perimeter.

Description

Many manufacturers offer inexpensive home-security solutions that leverage a home's existing broadband connection for outside monitoring and control. These systems have thus far been little different from the traditional systems they aim to displace. Systems tend to use a mix of window and door sensors, motion detectors, and infrared cameras, together with keypads and other peripherals—all of which connect using a proprietary wireless connection. Some manufacturers have recently begun offering solutions that combine the functions of these many security devices into a single unit. iControl Networks' Piper combines a high-definition wide-angle video camera with pan-tilt-zoom functionality; a motion detector; sensors for temperature, humidity, and light; a microphone; a speaker; a siren; and a Z-Wave home-automation controller into a single compact unit that connects to a home's Wi-Fi network. Start-up company Canary plans to offer a similar device later in 2014 that will also offer an infrared night-vision capability but omit the Piper's pan-tilt-zoom and Z-Wave control functionality. Instead of monitoring a home's perimeter, Piper and Canary work via monitoring activity in a home's interior. The systems upload sensor and video data to servers that analyze video and activity over time to determine automatically when something out of the ordinary is happening and alert the user. Depending on a home's layout, a user may be able to install a single device to enjoy a level of protection similar to what conventional multisensor security systems provide. (For homes with complex layouts, users can link up to four Piper or Canary units together).

Implications

Early adopters of the Piper system offer mixed opinions about its convenience and utility, citing problems, including unreliable Wi-Fi connectivity. Canary has not yet released its product to a mass market and has offered demonstration units to reviewers only. Nevertheless, nothing prevents Piper, Canary, or some similar future device from working as advertised. A single-device solution could indeed provide sufficient security for a small home or apartment to be worth the cost, particularly if—as is the case with Canary—no service fee attaches to a basic level of functionality. (Canary intends to charge service fees for call-center-based monitoring, DVR functionality, and other premium features only.)

Impacts/Disruptions

Piper and Canary are essentially cloud-connected multisensor units. Their principles of operation—computer-vision analysis in combination with sensor-data analysis—could support many kinds of functions that go well beyond home security. For example, a Canary device might one day be able to tell by analyzing video if a household member is in distress and then ask (using a synthesized voice over the device's speaker) if the person wants to call for assistance. Or a Canary could serve as a home user interface. Likewise, other multisensor devices (such as Microsoft's Kinect) could find use in home security via a cloud-based upgrade.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years

Opportunitites in the following industry areas:

Broadband connectivity, home security, building security, environment monitoring, home automation, home health care, home elder care, aging in place, home user interfaces, advertising, television production

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: