Apple HomeKit About-Face is Exactly What IoT Industry Needs
As far as an idea, one founded to bellwether consumer to the connected home, HomeKit is a genuinely good approach. As far as executing on a product even slightly resembling a step forward for the connected home market, HomeKit is a shockingly terrible example.
Their first crack at HomeKit was clunky thanks to a list of hyper-specific criteria. Compabilte products that have Apple-approved authentication chips, are manufactured in certain geographical locations, pass five-month long compatibility tests, and are not Android before getting the OK from Cupertino HQ.
These control-freak tendencies were what probably led to the behind-the-scene changes to HomeKit.
After WWDC in May, Apple has introduced software-based authentication, enabling HomeKit to play nicely with a much wider berth of products. Their initial implementation didn't let device communicate directly with one another, making mesh networking unavailable and anchoring everything to a central point. Software authenticated HomeKit means companies like Ikea can jump on board, while, for lack of a better term, 'legacy' products (e.g. Belkin, Honeywell, Nest, or August) should have an easier time being compatible if they ever choose to integrate.
One of Apple's positive power moves is forcing manufacturers to integrate directly with Apple's Home app, a play right out of other traditional control systems playbook.
WWDC was also an opportunity to roll out the HomePod, Apple's unabashed competition to Amazon and Google home control. The smart speaker will anchor all of the HomeKit, is jam-packed with features including a hi-fi set of speakers but also carries a whopping $349 price tag. At least Apple acknowledges that not everyone wants to use their iPhone to control the lights or raise the shades in a room.
All-in-all, the about-face is long overdue and should steer Apple in the right direction. HomeKit seemed confused when it first came out. Its message was unclear, and its purpose was cumbersome. Now it feels like a foundation for smart home products, a set of rules for the connected market. HomeKit has the benefit of a world-class set of engineers and a top-notch marketing department that can tackle the toughest part of any emerging product - education and implementation.