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Apple Watch: SmartHome Rumors Brewing
Tuesday, 2014 May 27 - 12:36 pm
A large number of Apple-related sites are buzzing about the possibility of a "smart home" (or "connected home") system to be announced at the upcoming WWDC in June. I had speculated about this back in 2011... it does seem to fit with Apple's philosophy of taking an existing technology with a terrible user experience and making it better.

Let's consider what an Apple-based system might look like.

First, it probably goes without saying that you'd have iPhone and iPad apps to control the whole thing: dim lights, view cameras, set the thermostat, and so on. There were some patent filings awhile back where it seemed like Apple planned on location awareness; that would allow things like having your outdoor lights come on automatically as you neared your house.

More speculatively, we might see AppleTV come into the forefront as the in-home hub device. It might serve as the Internet portal for all the local devices; in addition, you could have on-screen controls that you use with your AppleTV remote. It wouldn't surprise me to see AppleTV get rebranded as something like "iHome" (trademark battles notwithstanding). If it's not the AppleTV, it might be the Time Capsule, with all of its networking and built-in storage, or perhaps some kind of mutant combination of the two.

The real question for me is the accessory hardware. Any system that requires me to buy thousands of dollars worth of light switches and outlets and rewire my whole house is probably a non-starter. Instead, you might see a smart LED light bulb (similar to what Phillips already makes), or perhaps a standalone device that screws into the bulb socket and allows for any bulb to be used with it. For other appliances, I think a wall-wart kind of device would be easier to manage than having to re-wire an outlet.

The cost of these auxiliary devices needs to be in the $9-$29 range, not the $99-$199 range, to make a whole-home system really affordable.

A smart thermostat would be a great addition. I wonder if Apple is wincing over Google's acquisition of Nest... or perhaps Apple figures they can do it themselves just as easily?

I'd love to see a cloud-based home security solution too. Existing home security software is buggy and cumbersome. All Apple needs is something that will connect to existing NTSC cameras; they could probably make an AppleTV accessory for $69 to do that.

With all of Apple's excellent ad-hoc networking software, this could work seamlessly over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi with nearly zero setup; just simple push-button pairing would do the trick.

Apple stock is up to $621 as of this post, mostly based on smart home speculation. If previous patterns hold, the stock will drop substantially after the announcement, regardless of whether anything is introduced... the old adage on Wall Street is "buy on rumor, sell on news". But the long view is that this represents a truly new product category for Apple, and people might start to finally relax about Apple's perceived innovation drought.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch


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