By KYW tech editor Ian Bush
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Next Monday, Apple will unveil its latest products on stage in San Francisco. But already we’re getting a sense of what the company has up its sleeve — and it has to do with where you live.
Samsung has TVs, fridges, and washing machines that its smartphones can control. Google shelled out billions this year for Nest Labs and its Internet-connected thermostats and smoke alarms. But Apple is taking a different tack from its rivals.
“They’re looking to create a kind of software platform that uses things like the iPhone and the Apple TV to simplify the setup and the operation of different devices made by lots of different companies that will be dotted around the house,” says Tim Bradshaw, San Francisco correspondent for the Financial Times.
Tech companies promise that connecting your oven, the fridge, A/C, and light bulbs to the Internet and mobile devices will make your home smarter — with selling points like home automation and energy efficiency.
“Some of this stuff is a bit wacky at the moment, and some of it is more useful than others — things like security systems, air conditioning, or other climate control systems that turn on and off depending on whether you’re coming home or leaving,” explains Bradshaw. “But nobody’s really nailed it. I think the number of people using these technologies is still fairly small. It’s quite fiddly to set up, and it’s still quite an early adopter kind of niche.”
Apple seeks to change that by bringing its popular smartphone and iPad into the mix, along with its it-just-works philosophy.
“My sources at Apple are saying they feel there’s a role they can play in helping to simplify the setup of the smart home and these many different devices made by many different people,” says Bradshaw. “When you buy a pair of headphones or speakers, they come with a little icon that says ‘Made for iPod’ or ‘Made for iPhone.’ And that means it’s gone through a certification process by Apple that proves it will work and do what it says it does and certain security safeguards are involved.”
Still, there are questions over privacy.
“If you’re replacing your garage door with something that can be accessed over the Internet, then ultimately it could be hackable,” Bradshaw says. “Ultimately, everything is hackable at some stage or another, so it’ll be interesting to see if they try and make any promises about that at the developer event [Apple’s WWDC] next week.”
A caveat — as always, there are plenty of rumors swirling around WWDC, and Apple has been known to change its plans at the last minute.