Apple’s annual MFi summit, an event for accessory manufacturers in its Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod licensing program, will focus on getting accessory makers ready for new technologies including HomeKit hardware, iBeacon, Apple’s new Lightning headphones spec, and game controllers, according to Apple’s official event schedule.
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The summit, which is used by Apple to brief accessory makers on new technologies rolling out soon, is often a precursor to wide adoption of Apple’s latest iPhone and iPad-connected accessory specifications. If previous events are any indication, Apple is hoping to flood the market with a lot of HomeKit, iBeacon, Lightning headphones, and game controllers later this year and early next. In addition, Apple has sessions that include “Best Practices for Case Design” and “Designing MFi Accessory Software”.
This means you can expect to see a lot of accessory makers, not just Apple’s initial launch partners, come to market with new products that take advantage of the latest in iOS 8 and the MFi program including HomeKit and Lightning headphones. Apple has been working with a select few on HomeKit products, its new home automation platform for app developers, but it just officially finalized the specification for all MFi members last month ahead of next week’s summit. Companies have also reportedly started shipping HomeKit-compatible Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips.
Same goes for Apple’s new Lightning Communication Module (previously called Lightning Headphone Module). We were first to report back in June that Apple introduced the new specification for allowing headphones to connect to iOS devices using a Lightning connector instead of the usual 3.5mm headphone jack. Apple has been working with select partners to approve products, and Philips announced it will release a pair of Lightning headphones in December, but you can expect a lot more products to hit market in the weeks and months following next week’s briefing.
Also notable is the fact that Apple is choosing to focus on iBeacon and MFi game controllers as well. Apple’s game controller framework offers a lot of promise for gaming on iOS, something that many hardcore gamers felt Apple failed to capitalize on before introducing the spec in iOS 7. The game controllers got off to a bit of a rough start after complaints from users and manufacturers, but Apple is making it clear that the accessories are important to it by including it in this year’s summit. Many issues with the controllers are present in iOS 8, but the latest OS also introduced the ability to use MFi game controllers on iPads and Macs using a new feature called Controller Forwarding.
Lastly, new for iBeacon this year is a big push with how the proximity-based, Bluetooth beacon framework compliments Apple’s new indoor positioning features in iOS 8. Apple is getting venue owners to enable indoor positioning features with use of Wi-Fi, RF parametric data, and submitted floor plans. As it originally noted during WWDC earlier this year, it hopes that developers will create experiences with iBeacons that tap into indoor positioning. Imagine an app that lets you order a drink at a venue and have staff find your exact location even if you’re moving throughout the area on multiple floors, or an indoor navigation app that guides users to points of interest (iBeacons) at a venue like a museum.
Apple’s MFi Summit takes place Nov. 12-14 in Shenzhen, China.