According to a new report by Bloomberg, Apple is investing heavily in its smart home division in an attempt to grow the company’s presence in the smart home market.
Whilst HomeKit has grown significantly in the last few years, it trails Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa platforms in terms of the sheer number of compatible devices. The company is apparently looking at ways to encourage more manufacturers to make HomeKit accessories, and may even release smart home accessories of its own, following the HomePod’s muted reception.
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Today’s report from Bloomberg suggests there is a much bigger company initiative to try and get Apple to capture a bigger portion of the smart home market.
The new effort is reportedly headed by Andreas Gal, who Apple hired as part of an acquisition of Silk Labs in late 2018. Apple is looking to engineer solutions that make it easier for third-party smart home accessory manufacturers to adopt HomeKit.
Bloomberg also says that the group is also exploring whether Apple should produce smart home accessories of its own, like lights or door locks. It has been previously reported that Apple is working on a companion to the HomePod for 2020, a smaller voice assistant speaker with a lower starting price.
One potential area of interest for Apple’s hardware teams is home security cameras, which could synergize with the forthcoming iOS 13 feature called HomeKit Secure Recording. This will let HomeKit cameras automatically upload clips to a user’s iCloud account, in an end-to-end encrypted fashion. Bloomberg says that a few years ago, Apple was looking at making a ‘wide range’ of home accessories but the development was shelved.
Apple has made it easier for companies to make HomeKit accessories in the last year or so by transitioning from a hardware authentication module to a purely software-based system. However, some manufacturers continue to complain that adding HomeKit is costly and that the Apple certification process is slow.
Apple’s only smart home device, the HomePod, was praised for its sound quality but sales have been sluggish due to its premium price point next to much cheaper voice assistant cylinders from Amazon and Google. In addition to rumors of a cheaper version in 2020, Apple is also adding key software functionality soon to improve the product’s appeal, namely music handoff and multi-user voice profiles for Siri requests.
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