“Hi, Siri, I’m home.” And just like that, your lights flicker on, your TV jolts to life and your shades slowly descend to the floor. That’s just a hint of the kind of world Apple wants to build in your home when it releases its Home app alongside iOS 10 later this fall.
Apple began its foray into the smart home market in 2014 with the introduction of its HomeKit, a device framework the company developed to allow apps to control in-home accessories and appliances.
But the home automation market had one flaw: Many of the apps and accessories companies made couldn’t talk to each other. So if you had a Philips light bulb, it might not be able to talk to your Honeywell thermostat.
Beyond that, you might have to control multiple smart home devices with different apps, making it a confusing mess. And that’s where Home comes in.
Home is a single interface from which you can control all of your smart home appliances. Want to turn on the air conditioner and lower the shades? Home can do that in an instant. The idea is to create a smart home that’s easy to set up, customize and use from virtually all of your Apple devices.
The interface for the Home app is both inviting and simple to understand. The app is broken down into three sections: Home, Rooms and Automation. The Home screen allows you to take control of your favorite accessories, while Rooms lets you control individual accessories in any room of your home. Automation, meanwhile, is where you can set your home accessories to react to certain real-world actions.
So if you pull up to your home, your iPhone can activate the digital geofence surrounding your house, turn on the lights, open the garage door and unlock the door — all at once.
The Home app also lets you set what Apple calls Scenes for your home or specific rooms. For instance, when you’re going to bed at night, you can activate the scene for Goodnight and the Home app will automatically turn off the lights, lock the doors, lower the blinds and turn down the thermostat.
To customize a Scene you simply have to name it, select the devices you want the scene to activate and set the behavior they should follow. To do something like that just five years ago, you’d need to hire a technician.
Apple has built Home specifically to work with your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Naturally, you can control all of your appliances via Siri voice commands as well. So you can say, “Siri, open the blinds in the living room,” and up go the blinds.
Your Apple TV, meanwhile, acts as a kind of defacto hub for your Home accessories. Since your Apple TV never leaves your house and always has power, it provides a secure connection from your Home app on your phone to the Apple TV and your accessories. For instance, you’ll be able to turn on your air conditioner from the office to make sure the house is nice and cool before you get home.
But for Home and the larger home automation market to be a success, Apple has to get consumers interested in the prospect of purchasing all-new connected devices to replace their older dumb accessories. That could mean plugging your old lamp into a smart plug or installing a new smart thermostat.
Apple isn’t alone in its race to conquer the American home. Amazon already sells its Echo device with Alexa voice assistant, which lets you control appliances, order items through Amazon’s web store and perform basic online searches. Google, meanwhile, is working on its own home automation device, the aptly named Home.