The current state of home automation

The Financial Times reported [paywall] that Apple will push for Jetsons style home automation in next week’s WWDC reveal. Whether or not there is any truth to this conjecture, the home automation/internet of things space is maturing rapidly.

One in five adult American internet users already has a device at home that connects the physical environment to the internet, according to a Forrester Research report (paywall) out last week. As many as two-thirds would install such a device if it helps cut energy bills (think Nest, the internet-connected thermostat recently acquired by Google) or improve security (like the Dropcam cameras that provide a live video feed from your home to your phone). And according to the grandly named State of the Smart Home (pdf, p.9) survey published recently by iControl Networks—a company that provides connected-home services to broadband providers—fully 40% of respondents think they will be able to send text messages to their home appliances within a couple of years.

Good read. Especially if Apple does have some home automation up its sleeves.

  • lucascott

    I can see this as legit. Apple won’t be making the devices but perhaps some API that allow for better control. Imagine an app that uses something akin to how audiobus and GarageBand work together to let you set up scenes of several things at once. Like a single ‘coming home’ scene that sets your lights and turns on your fans or turns your Nest to a new setting and so on. Each piece is in it’s own app but you can link them to be one big set up.

    • I do this now, and I can tell you, it is incredibly boring. It is mildly useful and does change behavior a tiny bit, but if this stuff is limited to controlling lights, your door lock, heat settings, etc, it is not going to catch on. People come to my house and are like “ooh” but don’t even ask how it’s done because they don’t care at all do to it to their home. Also, if you don’t actually replace your light switch, it won’t even work properly because the minute some dumbass turns the light switch off and no power gets to the bulb, I don’t care how much you try to turn it on via your phone, it won’t work. People replacing light switches is a stretch…

      • tylernol

        the smart light switch route is the right way to go, rather than put smarts in bulbs as a retrofit. For light switches, just like thermostats, most people will have to hire someone to install a new switch.

      • lucascott

        I disagree. I think it will catch on. It just needs more than what there is now. And what there is and comes needs to work together more fluidly. Which is a part of the problem that Apple could be in a position to help solve.

  • Brian Mauter

    All of this may be true, but I’m having a hard time getting excited by it.

    I can’t help but think that all along WWDC 2014 was going to be an AppleTV event, but because they couldn’t secure content contracts, they had to find something else.

    So they bought Beats–or were going to until Dre/Tyrese leaked a video on YouTube. Apple may snub Dre and Iovine just like Steve did to McGraw with textbooks and ATI with graphics hardware. It’ll go through but they won’t make a big deal of it at WWDC.

    “Hey Craig and Johnny, what do we have for plan C?” “Um, yeah, we have this house integration API. We’ll put NFC in the next phone to compliment iBeacons so more home hardware will work with this big ugly 5” phone.

    • very unlikely. each of the three scenarios youve cited (apple tv, beats, home automation) is a major initiative that would require strategic planning from the top and years to bring to fruition. they are not last minute items to spruce up a WWDC.

      • Brian Mauter

        I guess that’s my point. The big push at this year’s WWDC will be home automation? Yawn

        • lucascott

          It bores you but you are not the end all and be all of Apple’s focus. The rest of the world might be thrilled by this idea and bored by whatever you think is totally awesome

    • lucascott

      Apple isn’t the type to plan an event around something that isn’t signed and sealed. They also don’t rush acquisitions or pre announce items.

      So your plan A, B, C idea falls flat.

  • Sigivald

    I could probably rig up something to send a text message to an appliance right now, re. that quote.

    Question is why I’d want to use an SMS interface in the first place, rather than a real app.

    (I have a SmartThings hub and some zWave devices, so it’s not like I’m not a comparatively early adopter or outside of the game.

    I can’t imagine why I’d want an “appliance” to be connected to my HA system, offhand… switches, locks, sensors? Sure.

    Lights? Yeah.

    My toaster, oven, microwave? WHY?)

    Apple could, as lucascott says, make a unified control API and sell/partner a hub [you can’t get around that if you’re Serious; you need special hardware for zWave and ZigBee and you can’t ignore them, not if you’re Serious].

    But I don’t quite see why Apple would bother; it’s still a fairly immature industry, and most of the difficulties are in dealing with third party hardware that does weird things – not exactly Apple’s MO.