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Apple Teams Up with Rivals to Create Open Smart Home Standard

Right now, if you’re considering the purchase of a home automation gizmo, you have to check its description carefully to ensure that it will work with your devices. Many work with Amazon’s Alexa, some support Google Home, and a handful are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit. Even more devices rely on other standards or work only with vendor-supplied apps.

To address this problem, Apple has announced that it is partnering with Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance (which includes IKEA, Philips Hue, and Samsung, among others). The companies have created the Project Connected Home over IP Working Group, whose goal is an open-source, royalty-free home automation connectivity standard “to increase compatibility among smart home products, with security as a fundamental design tenet.” If the group succeeds, you should, in the future, be able to use any given home automation product with HomeKit, Alexa, Google Home, or whatever.

Cynics have been quick to point out that consortiums like this often fail because the member companies are rivals. However, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. As the author of the just-updated Take Control of Apple Home Automation, two of the most common concerns I hear about from readers are interoperability and security. If these companies can work together to solve such problems, it could benefit the entire home automation market. As the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.

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Comments About Apple Teams Up with Rivals to Create Open Smart Home Standard

Notable Replies

  1. Great news! Thanks for sharing this!

    My workmates and I were just discussing the walled garden problem within home automation which has caused several of us to hold back on investing in devices.

    I am a bit curious how the big players will overcome their loss of proprietary lock-in. I’d like to hear you comment more on that. How much does that matter to them now and how will things change when the devices are interoperable?

    Also, will there be limits to the interoperability? Eg, could any monitoring hub work with any sensor device?

  2. My guess is that this is related to the fact that people aren’t upgrading hardware, particularly iPhones, as often as they have been. There are already about a gazillion Android and Alexa home devices out there, and Apple has always been laser focused on selling a few premium product lines and services. I have not read any rumors anywhere that Apple has demonstrated any interest in developing gaming hardware, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc., but I will bet that Apple is well aware that a significant number of iOS and Mac owners might want to use Siri to control their devices. And the manufacturerers want to sell their stuff.

    Apple opening up HomeKit is a great way to increase subscriptions to its services and to increase sales and lock in for Apple’s devices. I also think it’s a good strategy that can maybe get people who are not Apple hardware owners to subscribe to services.

  3. I imagine it matters very much to them, but I think they finally accepted the fact that home automation isn’t a booming market, and walled gardens are part of the reason why. These companies are always going to do whatever makes them more profit, so they must have arrived at the conclusion that working together will make them all more money than maintaining the walled gardens. I liken it to how the major Hollywood studios cooperate on the Movies Anywhere service, because they probably found that Disney sold a lot more digital movies with Disney Movies Anywhere than they had in the past, and it didn’t hurt that it took a bit of power back from Apple, Amazon, and Google.

    As to how things will change if and when they achieve interoperability, I’m assuming that you’re implying they’ll try to close things off again. I don’t see that happening unless the market just explodes, and I doubt that will ever happen, barring a generational shift. Home automation has been around since the 1970s and it’s always been a niche market. Or if sales remain the same, they might all take their figurative balls and go home. Of course, that’s assuming this project succeeds, which remains to be seen.

    I’ll say personally that there are a lot of home automation devices I’ve passed over because they won’t work with HomeKit, and this initiative could mean a flood of new HomeKit devices.

  4. Thanks for the reply.

    As to how things will change if and when they achieve interoperability, I’m assuming that you’re implying they’ll try to close things off again.

    Actually no. I’m wondering how Apple’s revenue and business model will change when people can buy HomeKit devices from google or amazon or the Chinese.

    I’m guessing it’s like monitors, drives, NICs, and other PC compatible devices that, ages ago, wouldn’t work with Macs, but then Apple adopted standards. The hardware becomes commodity, and Apple is converted to a good standing member of the community rather than a proprietary pioneer. And they find other ways to make money.

  5. It’s a good question. There may be some revenue share in place or Apple might still have some kind of certification that costs money. Or as MMTalker mentioned, Apple may be hoping to build paid services on top of home automation devices. It could even be the case that Apple is giving up on making money directly on home automation, since the standard could make Siri and its own devices more attractive.

  6. In addition to selling subscriptions there’s also potential purchases from Apple Credit Card and Pay.

  7. I don’t think Steve Jobs, Tim Cook or any of the past or current powers that be at Apple give a second thought about being a member in good standing in the community. It’s all about profits.

  8. I just read a positive review of the iota All-in-One Home Security Kit on 9to5 Mac. Just wondering if anyone here has experience with this product?

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