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Apple's HomeKit hub may already be in your house

Christopher Breen | June 20, 2014
HomeKit--a set of tools for controlling your home's devices from your iOS device--looks promising. But what about control from a remote location? Chris Breen has some thoughts.

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At Apple's recent Worldwide Developers Conference, the company announced--among a great many other things--HomeKit, a suite of tools for controlling such devices in your home as thermostats, furnaces and air conditioners, smart appliances, lights, cameras, garage-door openers, and security systems. Apple will provide a platform that these devices will be asked to conform to. Do so, and you can control them all from your iOS device.

And it sounds great. Imagine your garage door automatically swinging open and your back door unlocking as your car approaches, or a fireplace fwooming into action and lights dimming as you near the front door with your date.

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At WWDC, Apple's Craig Federighi briefly discussed what Apple has in mind for HomeKit

But imagine this as well: You're halfway across the country on a business trip and your kid calls and asks if you can flip on the lights downstairs because he's afraid of the dark. Or a massive heat wave hits at the same time and you want to crank up the air conditioning to preserve the Old Master hanging over a piano sensitive to humidity. Or--anticipating that hot date--you'd like to crank up the fridge to chill the champagne just a bit more before you get home in an hour. How are you going to communicate with all the devices in your home from such remote locations?

If you're accustomed to using devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat you already know the answer. You set up an account with Nest and then download its app. Now think about doing that with a dozen or more other smart appliances that you'll acquire in the coming months and years. Not only would it be a bother to dash from app to app to control your home remotely, but do you really want to provide access to your home network--and the devices on it--to dozens of companies?

It's for these reasons that I have to think (or, at least, hope) that Apple has another shoe to drop in regard to remote access via HomeKit. Clean as control of your home may be when you're standing in it, it makes little sense for the process to get ugly simply because you're not within range of its Wi-Fi network or iBeacon signal.

And therefore you need something that will arbitrate between you, your remote location, and the devices in your home.

"I know, I know!" you shout, "My Mac can easily do it!"

Possibly. But now you've shut out the vast majority of potential users who don't have a Mac or don't relish leaving their computer running at all hours just so you can switch off the lights necessary to pay for the power your Mac needs to allow such an action.

 

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