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Apple plots home break-in, home automation break-through

Gregg Keizer | May 28, 2014
WWDC may serve as stage for new platform to put Apple into the 'Internet of Things' mix

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, had a slightly different take on the home automation chatter.

"The big play here for Apple is to be the epicenter of the home, with their devices as the controller," said Moorhead. "All these things, lights, garage door openers, locks, thermostats, have to have a system that controls it with just one application."

As Moorhead envisioned Apple's strategy, the company would be unconcerned, perhaps even hostile, to other developers creating home automation control apps. It would want that premier spot for itself.

"That would play on the strength of Apple's ability to pull together a high-quality group of hardware and software partners," said Moorhead. "They don't have to build everything, they'd let others do that. But they would integrate everything into one solution, tie all of it together with one app that runs on iPhones, iPads, Apple TV and Macs."

Apple's approach would be quite different from Google's, which entered the home automation market in January when it spent $3.2 billion to acquire Nest, which makes smartphone-controlled thermostats and smoke detectors.

Moorhead, who has dubbed the multiple apps necessary to control different manufacturers' devices "app fatigue," was adamant that a single app is necessary if home automation is to expand beyond its current early-adopters and do-it-yourselfers market.

Revolv, a Boulder, Colo. firm that boasts a central hub and one-app integration with several device makers, has been in Moorhead's sights; he's added their wares to his own home.

Apple's size would give it a tremendous advantage over a small startup like Revolv, said Moorhead, and push the concept of one-app control -- naturally, one that ran on multiple iOS devices, the better to sell more smartphones, tablets and Apple TVs -- to a breakthrough point.

"I see Apple wanting to build one app to rule them all," said Moorhead. "With Apple taking the side of the 'human Internet of Things,' it could validate the mass market nature of home automation."

Revolv had similar thoughts today.

While the company declined to comment on specific questions about Apple's intentions -- it cited the lack of an official announcement -- Revolv welcomed Apple's entry, if that is what happens.

"From an industry perspective, this is great news," said Mike Soucie, co-founder of Revolv, in an emailed statement. "Google's entry into the smart home, via Nest, indicated that it is now time to move beyond the technical 'maker type' for the DIY smart home. Apple creates even more momentum for the 'smart home for the rest of us' and elevates awareness with consumers, which is good for startups like Revolv that have limited resources to educate the mainstream market."


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