Each week I look at the biggest story in smart home and give context to what’s happening in the connected home around the web.
This was the most important week for HomeKit since Apple announced it in June 2014.
That’s because, on Monday the company announced a host of critical updates to their smart home protocol and, just as importantly, launched their new wireless smart speaker/HomeKit hub, the HomePod.
Long rumored, the HomePod is what most of us thought it would be: a wireless speaker with built-in Siri. But with this announcement, Apple filled in many of the holes and showed us exactly how they plan to fight back against Amazon and Google in the digital home.
One thing is clear: Apple is leading with music, telling us that the HomePod will revolutionize home music. With HomePod and the launch of AirPlay 2 with multiroom audio, Apple is going directly after the Sonos consumer. The device, which costs $349, is an impressive piece of hardware, with seven tweeters, six microphones for far-field listening and its own A8 processor.
It was also a big week for HomeKit. Apple’s long-gestating smart home protocol had its biggest week since it debuted at WWDC in 2014. And while the HomePod – a dedicated HomeKit hub – was the main attraction of the day, Apple made some important announcements about HomeKit itself:
Software authentication – At WWDC this week, Apple indicated they will now allow HomeKit hardware makers to create products without the dedicated chip. This is important because one of the reasons the slow rollout of HomeKit was the requirement of an MFI security chip in each HomeKit device. All that said, given Apple’s strong focus on security, there’s no doubt that the new software authentication will be very robust and HomeKit partners will have to work hard to get software-based authentication through the HomeKit certification process.
NFC and QR code pairing: Apple wants to make HomeKit set up experience easier. NFC and QR code pairing will go a long way towards doing just that.
HomeKit is opening up to anyone with developers license: Before this move, a company had to be a member of Apple’s MFI third party hardware program. Now, Apple is opening the doors to HomeKit to anyone who is an Apple developer. This will greatly increase the number of smart people innovating around the framework.
The Smart Home Show
This week’s episode of the Smart Home Show is all about Apple’s HomePod and HomeKit. Have a listen below:
New From Around The (Smart Home) Web:
Samsung Combo Wireless Mesh Router/SmartThings Hub Available for Pre-Order: Samsung put its mesh router/Smart Things hub up for preorder. The new Connect Home comes with a built in SmartThings hub with Z-Wave and Zigbee radios and built-in mesh Wi-Fi. At this point, the mesh Wi-Fi market is becoming crowded, but the combo of smart home hub and mesh is a nice differentiator for Samsung and makes them comparable in feature set to to the Almond 3 mesh router/smart home hub.
Unikey Gets More $: One of the original Bluetooth smart lock technology providers, Unikey, has received another round of funding, bringing in $5 million from two private equity firms, adding to other strategic investors such as Samsung Ventures. What’s interesting here is the company looks like they’re going to use the capital to expand further into the pro/commercial lock space and new markets like automotive. When I talked to Unikey CEO Phil Dumas on the very first Smart Home Show, he talked back then about possibly expansion into automotive.
Samsung Rumored To Be Working on Smart Speaker: Of course they are. In a way, the key battle in the digital home is not for the home router or set-top box, but now its for the interface, and it seems the smart speaker is becoming the default form factor and device to act as that key interface. Samsung’s version of a smart speaker will be powered by Bixby, the company’s voice assistant technology. Is this a good idea? In theory. I mean, it makes sense for a company like Samsung to create their own, but as always with Samsung and the connected home its about execution.