CES 2019 has come and gone with a lot more of a presence from Apple than I expected. There were several TVs announced with both Airplay 2 and HomeKit support as well a Samsung TV that will for the first time ever, have an iTunes Movie and TV app built in. There was also a lot of HomeKit devices coming out this year, which is great for the ecosystem because before CES last year I was frankly worried about the future of the platform I loved so much. By opening up HomeKit to software authentication instead of requiring the hardware chips, Apple definitely has opened up the market to a lot of new entries and even some retrofitted devices as well. I listen to a good deal of podcasts and I want to say it was on Macbreak Weekly this week that Mikah Sargent expressed a desire for Apple to make their own HomeKit devices. The guests were discussing what Apple could work on next that would be exciting after Tim Cook sent out that letter at the beginning of the year about Apple missing it’s revenue target for the first time in 15 years. While most of the hot takes on this peak in iPhone growth focused on how Apple was doomed, I saw it as an opportunity to think about what could be next for the Cupertino company. Other than services, I think Mikah’s desire for official Apple HomeKit accessories could be a viable and profitable direction for the company. Apple could sell it on the experience of HomeKit integration, Siri control, and privacy angle. I feel like there are a lot of people who would pay extra to be able to buy streamlined and private home automation accessories from a company that doesn’t have a stake in monetizing your data. Google has Nest and while you do pay a premium for the Nest products, they do work exceedingly well together and share a coherence design language. I feel like Apple should get into that business. Continue to integrate HomeKit with as many third party devices as possible, but also sell their own integrated solution that you could by as a bundle or even get a discount on when you buy a home.
The Nest already looks really cool. I kinda wish. Apple would copy the circular design. There is something immensely satisfying with being able to turn the thermostat that you just don’t get with other products. I think a circle would also lend itself well to being another Siri endpoint. I think it could also serve as a motion detector and HomeKit relay Hub if you’d like. Having the Apple Weather app integrated in as well would be a nice touch. It’s a beautiful app, I think it would look great on your wall. Personally, I would also like to set the weather app. Dark Skies and Carrot weather would be particularly cool and fun partners.
Home security cameras would be an obvious thing for Apple to make. They could sell the privacy angle and give you the option to store the recorded footage in iCloud or locally on a device. A doorbell and indooroutdoor camera system would be nice to have from a company that does not make money from your data. I’d like to see what Apple could do with machine vision on-device. I would love to be able for the security camera to use machine vision to identify who is coming to my door and whether it’s a stranger or somebody I know. I like my Logitech cameras, but it annoys me that I have to use a third party service to disable recording when I am home in my apartment and I always feel self-conscious when I have guests over. It would be nice to be able to share out my house in HomeKit and anytime somebody is at home that I know for the cameras to be off and not recording.
This could tie into the security cameras. I feel like with 5G that Apple could change a monthly fee to introduce a monitors security system. This one is tricky from a privacy angle, but I think they could strike a balance between letting somebody monitor the system themselves and pay a 3rd party a monthly fee to monitor the status of the home itself.
I don’t see Apple ever getting into smartlights, but I could see them partnering with Phillips Hue and integrating with some of Hue’s more interesting features like Hue Sync, that syncs your lights to what is on your TV or computer, whether that is the AppleTV or Mac, I think this would be a cool thing to have, especially since Apple has been pushing technologies such as Night Shift and True-Tone, both of with change the color of your displays based off the time and ambient lighting around you. Integrating Hue colored lights into stuff like the security system in the case of an intruder or AppleTV would be very cool.
Apple used to make routers and they were really great if you were an Apple Home. Now that we have several mesh providers like Eero and Google WiFi, I feel like many people are starting to understand that WiFi is the conduit to many things in the modern home. I do not really trust a lot of 3rd party routers companies owned by nebulous companies. I trust Google myself and love Google WiFi, but for a lot of people they simply are not comfortable with routing their entire home internet through a company that makes the bulk of its money through advertising revenue. I think an Apple router today would easily be a mesh unit as well as a HomeKit Hub or even have microphones and speakers for Siri automation. I would also like the idea of being able to buy one with a hard drive in it or plug in a USB hard drive to make a private iCloud. That would be cheaper than buying iCloud storage and also promote that privacy angle Apple loves.
This would be a good and cheap way for somebody to get into home automation. They could also introduce power monitoring as a way to reflect their focus on being green.
Apple already has HomePod, which is an excellent speaker that just happens to be controlled by Siri. I want the opposite going for and with a HomePod Mini that is half the price and focuses on getting Siri into more places in your home. I would also love an Apple soundbar in the same spirit as the HomePod. Premium, but use some of that amazing sound. technology to optimize the soundbar for movies and television.
I am really in love with my Google Hone Hub. An Apple Smart display would be great, especially if could integrate with Apple’s Photo service. Half the reason I bought a Google Home Hub was that it serves as a great photo frame. I think a Smart display could serve as a great way to view your photos, control the rest of your home, and serve as another point for Siri integration. I’d love to be able to use a smart display to watch the news from Apple a News if given the chance. I think the smart display could be a great hub for all things HomeKit.
Overall, there are a lot more devices that I could see Apple going into, but I think that these devices would cover the majority of people’s needs right now. I think there could be something said about a family of home automation products that are private, easy to use via the Home app, and extended with Siri shortcuts. I think Apple could also lean on the power of people’s home Macs for stuff like image recognization on the cameras or managing the personal iCloud storage on the routers. Right now I do think one of the strengths of HomeKit is that you can integrate it with many third party products like Hue, Logitech, Ecobee, etc, but I would strongly consider going with an Apple solution if it worked deeply with their services like Apple Music, iCloud Photos, iTunes video + TV, Apple News, etc. I could see this as another way to get people into the Apple ecosystem, one that enhances and fortifies the devices and experience they already have.