The Apple Watch: Kicking Smart Homes up a Notch

With the Apple Watch shipping this week, we get to imagine what it might mean for home automation and security!

People have been envisioning the homes of the future since ‘the future’ arrived back in the 1950s.  Starting with the Monsanto model home of the future at Disneyland, and encompassing Xanadu 2.0 in Washington, people have been entranced with the idea of a home that adapts to external cues as well as the needs and commands of its occupants.  Now that we’re entering the age of the internet of things, this type of automation is becoming an affordable reality for homeowners.

Last year, we at Select Security noted that Apple quietly predicted the start of their HomeKit set for this year.  Just like Disney and Monsanto, Apple has helped North America imagine the future in ways that radically redefine everyday life.

The site offers the following explanation which we have paraphrased: “HomeKit controls connected accessories in a user’s home. Connected users can use HomeKit accessories or create actions using Siri and iPhone.”  Basically, your phone can control your [wired, internet enabled] house.

Cool, eh*?

So what’s the deal?  Home automation systems have been around for a while – why does Apple feel the need to enter this market at this time?  

Since their inception – part of Apple’s appeal is that their devices ‘just work’.  You plug it in and it goes.  While home automation apps and devices are available for purchase on the market today, there exists no single overriding framework for controlling multiple devices at one time.  In fact, if you use 5 apps for 5 different aspects of your home automation, the likelihood is that you’ll just zip around the house and do it manually instead of juggling the apps.  Also, wouldn’t it be handy to bring a new device home, spend 10 minutes configuring it, and then just use it?

What about privacy concerns?

Privacy and device security is a critical factor in deciding whether to bring a device into your home.  Consider how much push this story about a wireless baby monitor that was hacked gets on the web and through social media.  Even though it was a firmware vulnerability that was quickly rectified, ongoing negative social media mentions mean that customers are still not ready to enter the store and buy the product.  Apple recently released several of its directives for potential Homekit partners that include strict policies prohibiting data tracking and mining, manufacturer strategic partners for Bluetooth and Wifi components, and MFi licensing requirements.

Having difficulty imagining what your iOS app might control?  How about the following:

  • Philip’s Hue light bulb series: users can change colour and brightness via the existing iOS app
  • Kevo automated door lock: Using Bluetooth, the Kevo by Wiser automatically unlocks using your iPhone as the ‘key’.  Authorised users don’t need to do much more than stand close enough with their iPhone to unlock the door.
  • Nest’s thermostat: Recently purchased by Google, Nest’s product for remotely controlling the climate of your home, or even when you’re in bed and the thermostat is downstairs (handy in Edmonton, let me tell you!) has proved popular.
  • Based on the popularity of their thermostat options, Nest’s smoke and CO alarms are gaining in popularity as well.
  • Baby monitors such as this one from Withings are robust, attractive, and have remote controllable and viewable, pannable cameras controlled via app.  In dayvision and night vision modes.
  • Chamberlain has a line of iOS controlled garage door openers and gate openers.
  • OnStar is making great traction with an app for users of its car-intercom safety features.
  • Other possibilities include media systems, moisture alert systems for home or cottage toilets, water heaters, washers, and sump holes, driveway probes for vehicle detection, doorbell/door station, and our professional interest, security and surveillance systems like those offered by Mobotix.

Here at Select Security, we’re not all Apple lovers and neither are our readers.  If that’s you, take heart and keep your eyes peeled for similar rapid development through platforms modelled after Google Nearby. Also, we love talking about technology, home, and peace of mind (it’s why we went into the security business to begin with) – if you’re in the area, stop by for a coffee and a chat about some of the more technical elements of home automation.

*We say ‘eh’ because we’re in Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada.

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