The battle for the unified smart home begins…
In a galaxy far, far away…
Well, not that far away… here on earth actually. For home automation enthusiasts like myself, the pending battle between Apple and Google for control of the smart home universe feels like it is going to be epic... I'm talking Star Wars epic. Good vs bad, light vs dark, the Force vs the Dark Side. So who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? That depends on which side of the technology universe you live – Apple or Android.
It doesn’t really matter which side you are on, or who wins the war for that matter. In fact, I doubt there will be a clear winner - which is great – because competition drives innovation. Far more important than who wins is the fact that there is a real chance that we will finally have peace and harmony within our smart home universe.
Up until now (or very soon at least), if you wanted to turn your home into a smart home, you had to first choose which home automation technology you were going to start with… Z-Wave, INSTEON, WeMo, etc. Once you made your choice, you were pretty much locked in. Different smart home technologies tend not to play well with each other. Each technology (and the companies behind them) have their own agenda, with very little interest in making smart home products compatible with other competing technologies.
This is about to change with the introduction of HomeKit (Apple) and Brillo (Google). Both companies have some very ambitious plans… Unifying different smart home devices and technologies so they will work together. Others have tried… and failed.
So why will it work this time?
Simple – nearly everyone already owns a smartphone that is either driven by iOS (Apple) or Android (Google). That’s most of the battle won right there – no need to go out and buy new technology to control your smart home – you already own it!
How are they planning to achieve this ambitious unification of the smart home?
Both Apple and Google have released new smart home “standards” (HomeKit and Brillo) into their respective operating systems. If you are running iOS 8, you already have HomeKit (it just hasn’t been “switched on” yet). Google will be including Brillo with its next Android release (Android M, due later this year).
Use the Force little green robot guy...
So what does this new smart home war mean for us? It’s actually rather huge... epic in fact!
Provided your smart home technology of choice is either HomeKit or Brillo (or both) compliant (much like the “Made for Apple” phenomenon of last decade), you will then be able to pick and choose between different home automation devices (regardless of who makes them) and smart appliances (TVs, washing machines, dishwashers, security systems, etc.) and have them all work together – securely, seamlessly and without any fuss. At last!
It means voice control of your smart home from your phone or tablet… “OK Google… It’s movie time!”. "Siri... I'm coming home, turn on the hot tub!".
It also means when you get a phone call, you can have your phone display the caller ID on your TV - if you choose to answer – the movie will be paused and your overhead lights brighten to 50%. Or even better, when you start playing a movie, your phone can be automatically put into do not disturb mode.
When your phone detects you are pulling into your driveway… the outside lights will come on (only if it’s after 6pm of course), your home’s front door will unlock, your security system will disarm and the thermostat will be automatically set to the perfect temperature.
You get the idea.
The term “you are only limited by your imagination” gets used a lot these days – but in this case it's actually true. This is going to change how we live “with” our homes, not just "in" them. It will make our living spaces truly smart, tailored perfectly to our lifestyles. I’m very excited.
The success of Apple and Google in the attempt to unify the smart home universe is going to come down to third-party developers and manufacturers making their smart devices and technologies compliant with HomeKit and Brillo.
And they will. Oh yes they will.
They will have no choice… if they don’t, they will get left behind very quickly. Such is the power of the force that is Apple and Google.
Undoubtedly I will be writing more blog posts on HomeKit and Brillo in the very near future. But for now…
Grab your lightsaber (or your phone will do) and get ready to take sides. It’s seriously on.
Dun dun dundun dun dundun dun dundun...