FT: Apple readying software platform for the connected home

Philips Hue (teaser 001)

If a new report Monday by the reputable Financial Times is an indication, Apple is working on a brand new software platform for the smart home.

Details are scarce, but the paper has learned that your iPhone – or any iOS device, for that matter – would get turned into “a remote control for lights, security systems and other household appliances.” The move is said to part of a bigger push into the Internet of Things.

Citing unnamed sources, the article goes on to note that the Cupertino company will be previewing the new platform at its upcoming summer pilgrimage for developers, the Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off with a keynote on June 2

Tim Bradshaw has the scoop, reporting for The Financial Times:

Apple plans to take on rivals Google and Samsung and make a “big play” in the world of smart home technology at its Worldwide Developer Conference on June 2 in San Francisco, according to people familiar with the matter.

The article offers an example of the software.

For instance, it could automatically turn on a home’s lights when the owner enters the house because their iPhone would wirelessly signal their arrival. Even the $99 Apple TV box could play a role in iHome, the article asserts.

Sounds like Apple’s solution could use Bluetooth LE and iBeacons. To that end, the company is apparently partnering with third-party vendors on certified MFi products for the connected home.

The scheme will be similar to Apple’s existing “Made for iPhone” label, given to compatible headphones, speakers and other accessories, but with a new brand and logo.

Apple may also provide additional checks and assurances that certified products are not vulnerable to hackers.


The author claims that Apple’s platform will put a big emphasis on protecting your privacy, especially “given heightened sensitivity about technology companies’ access to personal information amid revelations about US intelligence agencies’ online surveillance programmes.”

This focus on privacy could give Apple a leg up over Google, which has been criticized recently over Nest’s updated privacy policy to allow data sharing with the search giant.

Nest Thermostat and Protect (lifestyle 001)
The Nest thermostat and smoke detector.

Apple has already filed for several related patents, including this invention envisioning a connected home controllable by the Apple TV, iMac, iPod and third-party gadgets, such as a cable box and other gear equipped with a near-field communications (NFC) chip.

Another patent outlines using the iPhone as a remote for the smart home.

Filed back in 2008 and credited to the creator of the iTunes Remote app, the invention proposes the use of “scenes” to adjust your home multimedia to fit settings like ‘Romantic Movie Night’, ‘Dinner,’ ‘Relax’ and more.

Suddenly, that magic wand accessory is no longer a far-fetched notion.

iTV on wall mockup

Back in December 2012, The Wall Street Journal named Apple a potential buyer of the home automation startup R2 Studios. Here’s R2 Studio’s app that turns Android phones into touch panels for controlling heating and lighting systems wirelessly.


It’s worth noting that R2 Studios holds patents related to controlling electronic devices and interfaces. Microsoft eventually ended up buying R2 Studios. The prospect of Jetsons-style home automation is as tantalizing as it’s ever been, even more so in today’s connected world.

Check out this guy’s house, outfitted with $80,000 in iPad-controlled gear.

Although The Financial Times is a respectable outlet, keep in mind that the paper more than two weeks ago broke news of Apple’s alleged $3.2 billion Beats buy which has yet to actually happen.

For weeks, I’ve been mulling doing an article about how Apple should make a massive push into the Internet of Things and make better use of iCloud and its server infrastructure to make its devices even more tightly integrated.

Internet of things (teaser 001)

For instance, Apple could tap the power of the cloud to retrieve fitness and health related data from a vast myriad of incompatible devices. It could then “normalize” – so to speak – this data so that apps could work with common data sets..

Watchers could point out Apple seems to be doing just that with its rumored iOS 8 Healthbook application. An Apple-branded smart home automation system could be an extension of that idea and probably the reason alone why Apple passed on the Nest buy.

I want to hear your assessment and analysis of Apple’s smart home play so hit us in the comment section below.

See also: apps and accessories for the connected home, Siri programmed to control an entire house, CES 2013 smart home accessories and clever solutions and our archive of articles about the smart home.

Pictured top of post: The Philips Hue smart lighting system.