Apple Wants to Unify Smart Home Products, But Not All Companies Are on Board

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 3 2014 5:13 PM

Apple Wants to Unify Smart Home Products, But Not All Companies Are on Board

homekit2
Craig Federighi, Apple's software chief, explains HomeKit at WWDC.

Image from Apple.

If you look at the sea of logos in the photo above, it looks like Apple has assembled an impressive group of smart-home device manufacturers for its new HomeKit feature. And it has. For most companies, complying with an Apple standard or somehow being able to attach the Apple name is a boon to sales. But is it a comprehensive list of every single manufacturer that dabbles in Internet of things products? No. And that's a problem.

It might sound like I'm being unreasonable. Apple is just taking one step to try to solve a larger industry problem. Currently smart-home devices like network connected thermostats, light bulbs, and door locks are all controlled by individual apps and protocols. The Internet of things has quickly become a tangled mess. With HomeKit, Apple is floating a solution that combines common protocols with things like secure pairing so Siri can control multiple smart-home devices, either individually or in groups. For a first step, this sounds pretty good!

Advertisement

But let's go back to that top image. Right away one company's absence jumps out: Nest. Nest's smart smoke detectors and thermostats are a big part of what put smart-home devices on the map. Consumers might not be so excited about domestic gadgets were it not for Nest's straightforward and appealing products. But, of course, Nest isn't there, because Google acquired the company in January. And this highlights the problem with HomeKit.

It’s possible that Apple will actually be able to carry the day and eventually come to dominate smart-home standards enough to influence industry standards, but Google is going to try to keep that from happening. And other companies may challenge as well. At that point, what started as an effort to bring disparate products under one umbrella could devolve into fragmented ecosystems. HomeKit is throwing down, but it's not over yet.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Mad About Modi


Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.


Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 6:59 PM The Democrats’ War at Home Can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.