​Apple introduces HomeKit for iOS 8

Want to use your iPhone or iPad to control devices around your house? Apple aims to make it easier through the new HomeKit software platform.

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Apple wants to make it easier to manage your home automation devices, so that you can lock doors, dim lights, and adjust your thermostat from your iPhone or iPad.

On Monday, the company announced at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco that it has added functionality in its upcoming release of iOS 8, through the HomeKit software platform, to integrate control for door locking, light dimming, and other home automation gadgets and features to iOS devices.

"There are a lot of great home automation devices coming on the market these days," Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, said during the keynote event. "And they all have apps."

Of course, each of these apps uses its own network protocol, Federighi pointed out. Now Apple is offering a way to make it easier for these app developers to integrate their apps' functionality with iOS devices. The integration will also allow app developers to use the Siri personal assistant software so these devices can be adjusted simply by speaking a command.

Smart home users will also be able to group their devices together, so that a single command can control them all. For example, Federighi said that just by saying, "Get ready for bed," to your iPhone or iPad could result in automatically dimming the lights and locking the doors.

Apple is also planning to run a certification program for HomeKit that will help ensure that products leveraging the HomeKit software will support new features enabled by iOS. Apple highlighted several companies it's already working with on HomeKit, including August, which offers smart door locks, and Philips, which makes connected light bulbs. There are at least a dozen other companies listed as partners, including Honeywell and iHome.

"August is thrilled to be developing door locks that will work with Apple's new HomeKit Accessory Protocol," the company said in a statement. "HomeKit will allow August to provide a simple and easy experience for their customers, with the ability to securely pair and control devices throughout the house including integration with Siri."

The company added that integration with Apple's HomeKit software will not affect the shipping date of its products. The company plans to offer more details in the coming months.

Smart home offers big opportunity

The home is viewed by many as the next big battlefront for tech companies. That not only includes TV but also a home's security system, lights, washing machines, and other appliances. All of the devices would connect in a so-called Internet of Things that can be controlled by a person's smartphone or tablet.

Apple isn't the only company making a push to control the smart home. Google in January revealed plans to buy Nest Labs, the maker of the Learning Thermostat and the Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, for $3.2 billion in cash. And Samsung that same month unveiled a new foundation for the smart home that would allow users to manage all of their appliance and devices through a single application.

In a similar fashion to what Samsung has introduced, Apple's HomeKit is more of a platform for managing and facilitating the function of the gadgets. This is an important problem to solve, since compatibility among smart home devices has been a big issue for many consumers. Apple's HomeKit looks like it's meant to help smooth out the integration issues while making the iPhone or iPad the remote control for each of these gadgets.

Update, 3:12 pm PT: This story has been updated with additional information about the HomeKit offering as well as with additional background information.

 

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