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Apple Continues to Bite Into the Home Automation Market

This week Apple hosts its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) where Apple executives will take to the stage to discuss the firm’s latest technology innovations and new projects. For the past few months excitement has been building around what news Apple will share on its home automation framework “HomeKit” – which took the spotlight at last year’s conference.

What has been announced so far? During the keynote speech Apple revealed that its home automation framework HomeKit will soon be able to integrate with hundreds of third-party products including security systems and mechanical blinds.  The product launch is underway. Last week the first waves of Apple HomeKit-compatible devices were released by Ecobee, Insteon and Lutron. Long lists of firms, including iHome, Phillips and Honeywell, have announced they are also putting together HomeKit compatible solutions.

So in a market that has already seen hundreds of product launches – why is everyone so interested in Apple’s HomeKit? Despite lots of new products, the smart home market has remained relatively small. It languishes in the niche of new high-end homes. As we wrote a few years back, mass market adoption needs simpler and lower cost solutions<span-gb">, and home automation devices still need to be integrated. In a market where all is still to play for, all eyes continue to be on Apple’s movements in home automation.

The most promising aspect of HomeKit is that it represents a move towards standardizing communication between devices by promoting a common protocol and framework. Apple has a vision of a market place where multiple home automation vendors can create compatible devices without having to coordinate directly with each other. This is a step forward because at present smart home devices struggle to connect because there is variation in standards and wireless protocols.

Apple’s HomeKit vision is a step in the right direction, but the big unanswered question is whether Apple and its tech competitor Google will allow their home automation systems to work together. Ultimately the battle for the smart home may limit the fully connected experience.

Look out for further announcements on HomeKit during this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference (June 8–12).