One of the things I was most interested in for CES 2015 was seeing how far home automation vendors had come in integrating Apple's HomeKit frameworks. HomeKit is supposed to take us from tediously tapping our way through dozens of disparate apps to elegantly controlling everything in our house with Siri. For all the announcements, however, there were no shipping products. So, what's taking so long?
Kelly Guimont, writing for The Mac Observer, heard something from Phillips at CES that made her think vendors might be waiting on Apple, and more enticingly, on an Apple "HomeKit event":
What if there is going to be an event? And what if that event is an official HomeKit launch? And what if that launch includes a new Apple TV that has "hub" functionality? A launch event would be a great way to re-introduce Apple TV, especially since we're coming up on three years since the last update. Not only would this event draw attention back to the Apple TV, but it would also plant Apple's flag pretty firmly in the home automation market.
Kelly has since updated the same article with the following:
According to Philips, the "HomeKit launch" referenced in the quote was the launch of iOS 8 in September, though the company has yet to comment on HomeKit support since that time.
Jim Dalrymple of The Loop added:
Very interesting wording from Philips in response to Kelly Guimont's question regarding their support for HomeKit.
It is indeed. Apple did have an education event in January of 2012, so events centered around specific topics, while extremely uncommon, aren't completely unheard of. If Phillips was, in fact, referring to the iOS 8 launch back in September of 2014, however, there might be far, far simpler explanations as to what vendors are waiting on now:
- To finish. Few vendors showed anything that looked polished and ready to ship when it came to HomeKit and Siri integration, so most of them likely need more time.
- To iterate. Apple isn't launching any Apple Lights this spring, which means it's the vendors who are hitting HomeKit first from the accessory side (rather than internal teams). That makes for longer loops and engineering cycles.
- For certification. Once finished, vendors will still need to go through Apple if they want to market their products as HomeKit compatible (the way speakers are marketed as AirPlay compatible, for example).
Join the MFi licensing program and get the hardware components, tools, documentation, technical support, and certification logos needed to create AirPlay audio accessories and electronic accessories that connect to iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
MFi application is under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) but it's not hard to imagine that the HomeKit process will take some time to ramp up, similar to how other new categories have taken time to ramp up in the past, including CarPlay and game controllers.
Current-generation Apple TV hardware running current-generation software already supports HomeKit, allowing Siri to be used to control the system remotely. Apple Watch supports Siri as well (though there's been no specific announcement about the watch and HomeKit). So, it's also not hard to imagine HomeKit making for a good demo at some future product or operating system-focused event either.
For now, however, my guess is everyone is just working as hard as they can to get everything finished, certified, and on the shelves.