Apple HomeKit, AirPlay 2 Could Jumpstart Connected Home Market
Apple's WWDC brought a ton of goodies to the table. Refreshed iMac's, beautiful iPads, and a fashionable new speaker/home assistant that will rival Google Home and Amazon Echo for an entirely different set of reasons - you can read Dealerscope's take on it here.
However, the most exciting development is Apple's AirPlay2. In a nutshell, AirPlay is Apple's proprietary Wi-Fi streaming protocol. AirPlay has historically played nice with a ton of brands including Bose, Marantz, B&W, and Sony to name a few.
So what's new in the first update in roughly seven years? Whole-home audio controls. For now, it sounds like it will only work with Apple Music, but an open API means quick adaptation for *insert preferred streaming service here*. This will all be packaged nicely inside of Apple's HomeKit, a DIY attempt at full home automation.
Apple is, of course, late to the party as a handful of manufacturers have been offering this service for some time in the form of Yamaha MusicCast, DTS Play-Fi, and, to some extent, Chromecast. Comparatively, it doesn't sound like Apple will be as robust as these ecosystems, at least not yet. The trade off will be turning the most dominate cellphone on the market into a remote control.
Libratone has also confirmed that a number of their legacy speakers will be upgraded to the latest AirPlay 2, meaning less blowback from those feeling left in the dust.
The last big question is what does this mean for Sonos? With a handful of well-respected speaker manufacturers receiving all the advantages of Apple's connected home play, how can Sonos possibly keep growing with Apple's customers?
Hi John. We don't have any news to share regarding the announcement but we'll be sure to keep everyone updated.
— Sonos Support Team (@SonosSupport) June 5, 2017
Truthfully, there is no way to tell who is playing hardball here. For all we know, Apple has no intention of bringing Sonos into their ecosystem. On the flip side, Sonos could make a play with Google and try to rival Apple's audio-first home assistant strategy.
HomeKit Gets Some Foundation Upgrades, Lacks Utility
It seems Apple is making serious moves in the integration space with HomeKit. I don't forsee them ever competing on the same level as the bigger names, but it's a hell of a start.
HomeKit, for the unenlightened, is software for smart-home appliances. It was first hyped at last year's WWDC, showcasing the ability to control shades, turn off lights, leverage geofencing - all in a slick, DIY interface.
This year's WWDC revealed that HomeKit is getting a few quality of life updates, such as sprinklers, faucets, and the aforementioned AirPlay 2 speaker control. There is also a huge list of eligible - or soon to be - third party vendors. High-Level tricks such as occupancy and duration triggers are also coming to iOS 11 in late fall.
A closer look at the HomeKit reveals it is a pretty rudimentary, albeit clever, system, with enough lukewarm anecdotal evidence to prove that it is simultaneously revolutionary and lackluster according to early users. While people are excited to feel in control of a connected home, shortfalls like its dependence on Siri and lack of functions (i.e. IFTTT) it is more of a foundational product than a solution - which is fine for its otherwise adolescent state. What is promising, however, is HomeKits ability to educate the mass market on the importance of a connected home.
What is promising, however, is HomeKits ability to educate the mass market on the importance of a connected home.
In short, I don't think Apple's push into the integration market is a threat. In fact, I believe it should pull the rest of integrators up with them by showing them just how useful a not only a connected home can be, but the value of a professional installer as well.