With their huge sales figures in most of the developed world, you would expect Apple to be leading, or their about’s, in the world of IoT and smart home technology. It’s not that they have ignored this area of tech, far from it in fact. Homekit was introduced to us in 2014, and showed quite a bit of promise at the time. So why are experts starting to question their strategy for bringing their ecosystem into the smart home? The reasons are varied, but also very valid.
Apple has never been a company who like to share. From their proprietary charging cables to their operating systems, Apple likes to keep things in-house. While this may be great for security, it doesn’t allow much wiggle room for other companies to play nice with the Cupertino tech giants. Where the likes of Wink and SmartThings use common smart home wireless protocols via a hub, Apple has gone down the route of using ‘bridging’ hardware to allow smart bulbs and their ilk to communicate with their phones and tablets. This hardware obviously costs money. The cost of which isn’t solely landed on the consumer; manufacturer’s who create these HomeKit compatible bridges also will need to shell out extra due to the security demands Apple require all third party HomeKit developers to live up to. This could mean that some manufacturers either hike up the price of their bridges or forget about supporting Apple all together. Every HomeKit compatible bridge needs to be fitted with an Apple certified MFi chip, which is part of the reason these bridges are more expensive than most of the competition. So is there any way Apple could make this easier? Well, many experts seem to think there is.
One central hub to rule them all
A simple way this could be fixed is with a dedicated Apple hub. This could relieve the need for a certified Apple chip in bridges, and in some cases, it could render the need for a bridge obsolete. Whether Apple chooses to change tack and build themselves a hub is something we may find out at WWDC very soon. A purely Apple built hub could lead the way for IoT developers in the future and give them something to aim at. If they know that Apple will only be using certain protocols, then at least we can be sure that for the next five years or so, these are the protocols that need to be included. Apple, being the company they are, tend to mould the industry around them, whether we like it or not, and having an idea of where they want to go would be a boon for everyone, including their rivals.
The other option for Apple is to keep things as they are, but with the added expense associated with the extra hardware, it seems like a hub is a sensible way to go. This way they also get to sell another product, keep things within their own ecosystem, and hopefully, run things smoothly. With the likes of Google Home and Amazon Echo becoming ever more popular, Apple has become a slight anomaly when it comes to hubs of any sort, and while they are not always first to market when it comes to any product, this is an area they really don’t want to be left behind in. Hub’s can be a springboard for other device purchases in the family, and if they miss the boat here, and end up competing in an area already saturated with rival devices, they could find it difficult to gain a foothold.
Considering this is a relatively young sector of tech, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Apple has waited before dipping their toe into the water. They ran with the same tactic when releasing the iPhone and iPad, and still managed to release devices that sell better than pretty much anything else. The tendency to hold back and perfect a device is something they always do, and they do it well. If they do indeed release an IOT-centric hub, we can at least rest assured it will work well, and of course, look good. Whether it plays nicely with other devices and services, we will have to wait and see.
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