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.
According to Technology Editor Daniel Howley, the home automation market had one flaw: Many of the apps and accessories companies made couldn’t talk to each other. So if a user had a Philips light bulb, it might not be able to talk to their Honeywell thermostat.
Beyond that, users 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 users can control all of their 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 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 users to take control of their favorite accessories, while Rooms lets them control individual accessories in any room of their home. Automation, meanwhile, is where users can set their home accessories to react to certain real-world actions.
So if users pull up to their homes, their iPhones can activate the digital geofence surrounding their house, turn on the lights, open the garage door and unlock the door — all at once.
The Home app also lets users set what Apple calls Scenes for their home or specific rooms. For instance, when users are going to bed at night, they 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, users simply have to name it, select the devices they want the scene to activate and set the behavior they should follow. To do something like that just five years ago, users need to hire a technician.
Apple has built Home specifically to work with their iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Naturally, they can control all of their appliances via Siri voice commands as well. So they can say, "Siri, open the blinds in the living room," and up go the blinds.
Apple TV, meanwhile, acts as a kind of defacto hub for Home accessories. Since an Apple TV never leaves the house and always has power, it provides a secure connection from a Home app on to the phone to the Apple TV and accessories. For instance, users will be able to turn on their air conditioner from the office to make sure the house is nice and cool before they 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 users 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.