The Next Web has an interesting piece talking about what Jeff Powers refers to as ‘Class 2 smarthomes.’
With today’s tech – Class 1 – we do have things liked timed automations, but a lot of the time we’re controlling things manually. Class 2 smarthomes would, he argues, be truly smart, and figure out a lot more things on their own.
Some of what he proposes would be pretty complex, but there’s one idea in there which Apple could fairly easily implement, and which would make HomeKit a lot friendlier for non-techies …
One of the difficulties with HomeKit generally is that it doesn’t always scale well. When you have one smart light per room, or a set you always want to control in tandem, then it’s easy.
Turn on the living room lights
But as you add more devices, things get messier. For example, we have a combined living-room and dining room. If we want ambient lighting, we use the ‘living room lamps’ – which are floor lamps. If we want more light, we will also put on ‘living room yellow lamp’ and ‘living room side lamp.’ If we want task lighting, we’ll use the overhead lights which, for simplicity, we’ve called ‘dining room lights.’
Even for me – the guy who named them – I sometimes have to think for a second before I voice the request to Siri. My partner took longer to get comfortable with the idea that you sometimes have to be very specific about light names. And for guests, well, basically forget it. They rely on wall-mounted Wi-Fi switches or the Home app.
What Powers references is the grandmother test.
Imagine this home is set up for your grandparents. Grandma won’t need to memorize the den lights’ name. Rather, she can say “Turn on the lights.”
In theory, Siri does this to some extent. Because HomePods know the room to which they’ve been assigned, you can simply say ‘turn on the lights’ and – in theory – it will do so for that room. Though you’ll always get all of them, and in practice it doesn’t always work reliably. Our bedroom HomePod, just told to switch on the lights, switched on every light in the apartment …
What I’d like to see is HomeKit able to work with iBeacons. Dot these around the house, and then when you tell Siri to turn on a light or turn off a fan, it will be able to work out exactly where you are and respond accordingly.
For example, if I’m sat in an armchair on the right side of the living room and ask Siri to ‘turn on the lamp,’ it should turn on the one nearest to me. If we’re sat at the dining room table and tell it to ‘turn on the light,’ it should switch on the overhead light above the table.
The obvious next step is to track the locations of family members as they – or at least, their watches and phones – move around the home. When it sees that all devices have left a room, it should switch off lights and fans automatically, restoring the exact mix of lights when someone returns.
AirPlay 2 could also interface with iBeacons. For example, if two of you are in the bedroom listening to music in the morning and one of you walks through to the kitchen, it could add the kitchen HomePod, so that the music is playing on both. When the second person joins you, it could switch off music to the bedroom HomePod.
It’s not difficult to think of a whole bunch of ways that this kind of location-tracking within the home could make smart homes a great deal smarter than they are today. Albeit only if everyone is wearing an Apple Watch or takes their phone with them as they move around the home.
What’s your view? Useful or not? Would you invest in a bunch of beacons to make your smart home smarter? Please take our poll and share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.