The house that Tim built: Apple's home automation plan

Apple is widely tipped to move into home automation. Will WWDC see an Apple house of the future?

Inside the Enterprise: The run up to Apple's World Wide Developer Conference is always grist for the rumour mill.

Apple, of course, is notoriously tight-lipped about future products. But it does a fair bit to fuel speculation itself: teaser invitations to the media, and colourful posters at the Moscone convention centre, are as much part of an Apple event as the products themselves.

This time suggestions that Apple might be making a move into the home automation market is backed up by more than the wording on an envelope. According to the Financial Times, Apple filed a patent for a home automation system last year.

This system would, unsurprisingly, be controlled by an iPhone. The idea of controlling "smart" appliances from a phone or tablet is slowly gaining ground among consumers, with appliance makers starting to add Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections for their hardware, and write apps to control them.

In this respect, the domestic appliance market is following the lead of gadgets such as hi-fi and cameras, which increasingly feature Wi-Fi connections to allow control from a tablet or smartphone.

White goods are less advanced in this respect: being able to turn off the dishwasher via an app is just less fun than using an app with a digital camera even if the latter is contributing to a flood of "selfies" on the internet. But it is the even less glamorous area of lighting, heating and cooling that offers the real potential. This, perhaps, is where Apple will focus its attention.

In commercial properties, building management systems are already highly automated, with a view to cutting energy use and improving security. These are factors that matter to consumers too.

Retrofitting smart building technology to a house is no trivial task, but the success of the Nest thermostat shows there is an appetite for even a single-purpose device, provided it is well designed.

Nor is this the only initiative. In a recent project in the Netherlands, the energy arm of consultants CapGemini installed a smart meter and power management system for power company TexelEnergie. The core of the system is an Android tablet that doubles as a power monitor and controller. According to the company, users are much more likely to try to save power, if they can monitor their energy use in a convenient, and visually attractive, way.

Apple's potential advantages in the home automation space flow from its understanding of design, the popularity of iOS, and the quality control of its ecosystem. Apple is likely to spend time and money ensuring anything it brings to market works, and works well, even if it means buying more Apple branded kit. It would be a risk for CEO Tim Cook to do anything less.

And of course, if Apple succeeds, there will be pressure on businesses to adopt Apple's technology in the workplace too just as there has been with the iPhone and the iPad.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

Featured Resources

Navigating the new normal: A fast guide to remote working

A smooth transition will support operations for years to come

Download now

Leading the data race

The trends driving the future of data science

Download now

How to create 1:1 customer experiences at scale

Meet the technology capable of delivering the personalisation your customers crave

Download now

How to achieve daily SAP releases

Accelerate the pace of SAP change to support your digital strategy

Download now

Recommended

The 8th-generation iPad debuts with the A12 Bionic chip
tablets

The 8th-generation iPad debuts with the A12 Bionic chip

15 Sep 2020
iPad Air 2020 debuts with A14 Bionic chip and USB-C
tablets

iPad Air 2020 debuts with A14 Bionic chip and USB-C

15 Sep 2020
Broadcom chip shipments indicate delayed iPhone 12 launch
Hardware

Broadcom chip shipments indicate delayed iPhone 12 launch

4 Sep 2020
Apple delays iOS 14 privacy changes after Facebook pressure
privacy

Apple delays iOS 14 privacy changes after Facebook pressure

4 Sep 2020

Most Popular

16 ways to speed up your laptop
Laptops

16 ways to speed up your laptop

16 Sep 2020
16 ways to speed up your laptop
Laptops

16 ways to speed up your laptop

16 Sep 2020
Windows XP source code allegedly leaked online
Microsoft Windows

Windows XP source code allegedly leaked online

25 Sep 2020