Apple’s HomeKit is still in its earliest days, with the connected home framework technically shipping with iOS 8 but not offering up any consumer endpoints to explore just yet. The latest beta of the Apple TV operating software shows (via AppleInsider) we could be nearing more visible HomeKit feature debuts, however, as it sets up the streaming set-top box to become a smart home hub, providing an overview of all your connected smart devices.
The beta for Apple TV has contained HomeKit references before, but they were hidden deep and removed when reported on by eagle-eyed blogs. This time, Apple is making the HomeKit integration explicit, and using the software treats the media streamer as a HomeKit peer, meaning it could allow users to control their smart systems even remotely when they’re away from home.
Apple TV as a hub, in the way SmartThings uses its own hardware gateway to connect to its range of supported third-party gadgets, makes a lot of sense. For one, it’s already present in a number of homes. Second, it offers an additional purchase incentive to users who don’t yet have one. And third, with a relatively simple hardware update, it could gain microphone input, allowing you to use Siri to control your smart home even without activating it on your phone.
HomeKit was designed to have Siri connections from the get-go, with grouping options that make it possible for users to set up custom triggers that can turn on/off various connected home devices like lights, heating and cooling systems, security and more. Making it an invisible background feature of every iOS device appears to be one of the goals of the project, but using the Apple TV as a hub and central command center makes a ton of sense, and begins to reconfigure Apple’s media device ambitions as something new – and something with a lot more future potential.
If the Apple TV can become a general dashboard for our growing Internet of Things, Apple will have created a new need for the device that could ramp even customers uninterested in cord cutting its way. It’s a ready-made answer to the growing number of companies interested in providing a centralized gateway for connected devices, and it’s a way for Apple to capitalize on existing success with Apple TV sales while elevating a category with arguably limited existing growth potential, pending major changes in the way the media landscape works.
Apple’s HomeKit plans will likely become more clear as we begin to see how partners work with it, but for now, this is a tantalizing vision of future possibilities. For year, observers have been anticipating more movement from Apple in terms of owning the living room – but its initial foray into that market could prove the beachead for a takeover of the whole home, instead.