The Internet of Things has been picking up a lot of steam, and there are more connected home devices available now than ever before. But having many different manufacturers all providing individual solutions makes for a very fragmented experience—not entirely inline with the “connected” ideal. But there are two major players who may provide the solution.
The first is Apple, a behemoth and a market leader. Where Apple goes, others will follow, and back at WWDC in June Apple announced HomeKit, a framework for securely connecting and controlling various gadgets.
The other player is SmartThings, a brand new startup that raised $1.2 Million on Kickstarter. SmartThings went live last year as a smart device management platform and has continuously expanded and improved its offerings ever since.
These two organizations represent the forefront of consumer smart devices. Other players, like Google (along with Nest) are also in the game, but haven’t made any major strides. Nest continues to chip away at connecting homes, but it lacks the “all-in-one” angle which is being pushed by the competition.
SmartThings is characterized by imprewssive scope and simplicity. They have succeeded in creating a system which simplifies the Smart Home concept down to a point where it’s easily accessible to the average consumer.
To make SmartThings work you need 3 things: a smart device, a SmartThings Hub, and a Smartphone. (That’s a lot of “smart” stuff,eh?) Connect the smart device to the Hub, and the Hub will link up to the SmartThings Cloud, where you can access it from anywhere through your phone. Using the app, you’ll have complete control to monitor and control any devices or sensors hooked up to your house’s Hub.
SmartThings offers several sensors and gadgets of their own, detecting things like motion, moisture, temperature, or doors and windows being opened. They’re also partnering with OEMs to include other gadgets on their open platform—Honeywell, GE, Kwikset, Schlage, and Trane are already included. SmartThings takes the individual capabilities of all your different gadgets are centralized in the App.
HomeKit will roll out officially with the release of iOS 8 later this year. It creates a standardized set of protocols for managing connected devices through iOS. The main selling point Apple has pushed for HomeKit is the ability to set up devices to be controlled by Siri. So you’d simply tell Siri, “Open Garage Door” and the garage door would open.
Apple hasn’t explained much more than that, but the implication is that they’re ramping up a device platform that mirrors SmartThings. How open will that platform be? Obviously getting more devices to conform to their system is a must if they want to gather users. Apple will have no problem attracting manufacturers. On the consumer side, though, Apple’s proclivity for exclusivity will mean that they’ll only have access to a smaller subset of homes (i.e. those with iPhones and iPads).
It’s true that we’ve seen incredible activity this year, perhaps enough to warrant calling 2014 the year of the smart home. However, despite the influx of quality devices, adoption remains low and complexity remains high without overarching systems to consolidate the experience. SmartThings has proven that simplification can work, but independent of a big name growth is a tough climb. Will Apple’s HomeKit be the mass market game changer?
By the end of 2014, we’ll have a much clearer idea of how the Smart Home battleground will be shaped, but it’s clear that the core concepts are proven. The remaining hurdle is that of getting the technology into people’s homes, and that’s a challenge that I’m certain will be
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