Apple building home automation into iPhone?

27 May 2014

Apple will take to the world stage on June 2 to unveil its next big changes for iOS, with many tipping the focus to be on home automation.

The announcement is expected to take place at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), an annual event for software developers to see the latest changes to Apple’s software platforms iOS and OSX.

If the rumours are true, you could soon be switching on the lights and heating at home while travelling home from the office, disabling security alarms and even talking to your fridge with your iPhone or iPad. And if we know Apple, you can be sure it will have a name like ‘Air Control’ or ‘iHome’ and it will not be compatible with any other similar systems in mobile devices.

This last point is especially important given Google’s recent acquisition of Nest, a company which has already commercialised a number of home automation devices. Don’t be surprised if we see Google unveiling similar plans for automation authority when it hosts a similar event for developers at the end of June.

Then, give it a few years

Not unlike Apple AirPlay, the stumbling block for a new communications protocol like this will be support for a number of other manufacturers. If Apple does choose to create a closed ecosystem for home automation it will need the likes of Samsung, LG and Sony to build the same functionality into appliances like TVs, refrigerators, ovens and washing machines.

In the meantime, Apple will probably need to release a range of compatible power switches: devices like light switches and power boards which connect to a WiFi network and that speak the same language as Apple’s automation system.

A good example of something like this already in market is Belkin’s WeMo automation products. Using a combination of Wi-Fi and motion sensors, Belkin’s switches can control a number of appliances in a house, so long as the command is a simple one, like “turn power on or off”.

We imagine Apple will want to wow its customers will far more granular control, like the ability to set temperatures for cooking and heating, or the ability to control entertainment systems remotely. We’ll just have to wait and see what they have in store for us next week.



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