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.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

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

Application security fallacies and realities

Web application attacks are the most common vulnerability, so what is the truth about application security?

Download now

Your first step researching Managed File Transfer

Advice and expertise on researching the right MFT solution for your business

Download now

The KPIs you should be measuring

How MSPs can measure performance and evaluate their relationships with clients

Download now

Life in the digital workspace

A guide to technology and the changing concept of workspace

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/business-strategy/33311/apple-launches-new-tv-gaming-and-finance-services
Business strategy

Apple launches new TV, gaming and finance services

25 Mar 2019
Visit/hardware/34606/apple-ipad-102in-2019-review-the-ipad-grows-up
Hardware

Apple iPad 10.2in (2019) review: The iPad grows up

10 Oct 2019
Visit/hardware/30623/apple-imac-pro-review-the-return-of-the-king
Hardware

Apple iMac Pro review: The return of the king

2 Sep 2019
Visit/hardware/33677/apple-imac-215in-2019-review-return-of-the-improved-mac
Hardware

Apple iMac 21.5in review: Return of the (improved) Mac

28 Aug 2019

Most Popular

Visit/business-strategy/mergers-and-acquisitions/354191/xerox-threatens-hostile-takeover-after-hp-rebuffs
mergers and acquisitions

Xerox threatens hostile takeover after HP rebuffs $30bn takeover

22 Nov 2019
Visit/security/data-breaches/354192/t-mobile-data-breach-affects-more-than-a-million-users
data breaches

T-Mobile data breach affects more than a million users

25 Nov 2019
Visit/mobile/google-android/354189/samsung-galaxy-a90-5g-review-simply-the-best-value-5g-phone
Google Android

Samsung Galaxy A90 5G review: Simply the best value 5G phone

22 Nov 2019
Visit/business-strategy/it-infrastructure/354188/tsb-payment-delays-suggest-second-it-meltdown
IT infrastructure

TSB payment delays suggest second IT meltdown

22 Nov 2019