At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2013, Apple announced it would be invading the automobile with CarPlay. That particular feature takes the iPhone screen and puts it, in a simplified form, onto the navigation screen on modern cars.
Apple's 2014 WWDC keynote will take place next Monday, June 2, at 10:00 AM (PDT). This year, according to a new report from The Financial Times, Apple is aiming to use iOS to take control of the home — the Internet of Things (IoT), as it's called.
Over the past few years, app-enabled devices like thermostats and light bulbs have exploded in popularity as omnipresent smartphones have made it easy for "dumb" devices to gain new intelligence from internet connectivity. Owners of the Nest Thermostat, for example, can use their iPhone to turn their heat on before returning home from a ski vacation. An app can tell the Philips Hue line of LED lightbulbs (pictured above) to change color or brightness, and they can even be set to change color when a favorite sports team wins its game, among many other things.
Apple is looking to make the iPhone the center of this IoT by creating a new API and platform — similar to the company's existing "Made for iPhone" scheme that allows accessory makers to certify that their products are approved for use with Apple's devices — for smart home products to use. It's likely that the platform will be a tentpole for iOS 8, widely expected to debut at WWDC next week.
The Financial Times says Apple has been in touch with "a select group of... device makers" to work with the new platform. It claims that Apple will focus on the privacy protections built into its platforms, a stark contrast to Google, who aggressively downplayed an SEC filing from last week that said the company was interested in displaying advertising on products like the Nest Thermostat, which it acquired earlier this year.
Google makes the vast majority of its money from advertising and user tracking, whilst Apple makes nearly all its profits from the sales of its hardware products. This could give it a leg up in a sales pitch convincing skeptical consumers to install smart devices in the home. With the technology in place, Apple could include motion sensors, location tracking, and other new technologies (like near-field communication) to activate lights, open a garage door, or perform other tasks when a user arrives or leaves their residence.
I'm a big proponent of internet-connected devices. I have a Nest Thermostat, a half-dozen Nest Protect smoke detectors, a number of Philips Hue bulbs, and a fully interconnected house with audio and video shared from a central server. There are many home technologies that would benefit from extensive iPhone integration, but the biggest problem currently facing users is the sheer number of companies that make these products. Each one needs its own app and API, and though there are products that attempt to unify the various platforms, none of them have really knocked it out of the park yet.
Apple is in the perfect position to take control of this burgeoning marketplace with a huge user base of early adopters and eager developers who will jump onboard for a chance that they might get prominently featured on Apple's App and Retail Stores.
What do you think? Will Apple's embrace of IoT drive user adoption? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.