One of the most promising areas of technology growth is in home automation, which could be the next big revenue source for consumer electronics companies. That’s why Google (GOOG) bought Nest, Samsung (SSNLF) is after SmartThings, and Intel (INTC) is determined to provide the chips and security powering the “Internet of Things.” The IDC says the Internet of Things — comprised in large part by smart home technology — will be worth more than $7 trillion by 2020.
Did I say next big revenue source? Maybe that should be the next mother lode for companies looking for the next smartphone or tablet boom.
I’m a big fan of home automation, and not just because it promises to be good for the bottom line of big tech companies. It has huge potential for consumers. Smart home technology can save me money, put me in finer control of my home, offer new capabilities and help me reduce my environmental footprint.
Unfortunately, the current state of home automation is a mess.
The Problems With Smart Home Technology
Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of very cool gear and it’s already doing some very cool stuff. Indeed, it has the “cool” factor locked down. But there are competing standards even for things as simple as the wireless protocols used by these devices: Each manufacturer uses their own app to control their devices, and few can share data or interact effectively with each other.
Smart home app-overload has reached the point where Philips (PHG) — an early home automation success story with its Hue smart LED lighting — recently introduced a revolutionary new way to control its Wi-Fi connected LED lights: a light switch. Sure, the switch is web-enabled and powered by kinetic energy, but the point is, there was enough pushback over having to whip out a smartphone or tablet and launch the Hue app to control the lights that Philips finally caved and released what amounts to an old-school light switch.
This shows just how badly consumers need something like HomeKit. For home automation to take off, there needs to be a degree of centralized control for all this smart home technology.
Take my house, for example. As I’ve collected various home automation bits, I’ve also accumulated apps needed to control each of them.
There’s the motorized Wi-Fi connected door lock, IP cameras, smart thermostat and various security and safety sensors. Then there’s Hue LED lighting and its app. Another collection of smart light switch replacements, a few smart power outlets and a connected outdoor camera.
Some of these are tied together through a home security system, but many operate independently. Together, there are a half a dozen control apps on my iPhone, each with its own interface — which is bad enough — and virtually no communication between devices.
That’s where Apple’s HomeKit comes in.