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Apple Eyes Home Automation

An Apple home automation platform would turn iOS devices into controllers for networked appliances.

a mobile phone, wrapped in an easy-to-use touch-based interface.

Networked devices and wearables fall short of that. They tend to offer similar functions but with more constraints, or they offer information such as exercise data that's potentially interesting to a few but isn't critical. Despite its attractive design and interface, the Nest Thermostat's value is shaky. Some users report saving energy with the device; others report the opposite. Ultimately, energy savings can be achieved with any programmable thermostat, or without one, because smart consumers can do what smart devices can do and more. Apple might be able to use its familiar iOS interface to offer a better user experience with appliances and wearables, but few of these devices will be as broadly useful or appealing as a smartphone.

Further magnifying Apple's challenge, the passage of time has made some aspects of the company's digital hub strategy obsolete. In 2001, Jobs cited five advantages to using a Mac as a front end for digital devices: the computer's large screen, the ability to run complex applications, the ability to burn CDs, the computer's more affordable storage, and the computer's ability to connect to the Internet.

Of these, only the first two remain relevant. Smartphones and tablets tend to have nicer interfaces than wearable devices or networked appliances. And they can handle complex apps more effectively than most appliances. But even so, these two distinctions are dwindling, because voice-based interaction does not require a screen, and because appliances like Samsung's T9000 refrigerator might run a full-blown Android operating system. Computing power has migrated from the center of the hub to the edges.

As for the other aspects of Apple's digital hub strategy, they're obsolete. CD burning no longer matters. Storage can be accommodated in the cloud or on small, affordable, high-capacity peripherals, and pretty much every electronic device these days is networkable or Internet-ready.

That said, Apple still has something to offer: It's one of a handful of companies that can actually manage an appealing interface, and it can ensure there's sufficient privacy and security in its device ecosystem. And its brand counts for a lot. It's a more recognizable name than other home automation players like ZigBee or X10 to most consumers.

But if Apple is looking to establish a product line to rival the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, it's not likely to do so with networked appliances. With Apple TV now a significant business, expect home automation to become Apple's next hobby.

IT is turbocharging BYOD, but mobile security practices lag behind the growing risk. Also in the Mobile Security issue of InformationWeek: These seven factors are shaping the future of identity as we transition to a digital world (free registration required).

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 3:59:59 AM
Re: Building on a Rep
Alison, 

"Not saying it won't happen, just that it'd be awful if (or when) it does."

Yes, I know what you mean. What I wonder is if, for example, today's kids, who are growing up in a world with close to little privacy, will react as we do when the day comes. I think they won't.

Then, the rest of us will have two options: Adapt, or move to a cave in the nearest forest. :D (some humor is necessary because I don't believe we can stop what it's to come) 

-Susan 
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 5:09:57 PM
Re: Building on a Rep
same with my internet provider they want me to use they hardware...
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 3:34:46 PM
Re: Building on a Rep
I really hope the day never comes that people are so unconcerned about their right to personal, private information that they cede all control to companies that then turn around and sell that data to other businesses. It would be a sad world. Not saying it won't happen, just that it'd be awful if (or when) it does.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 3:33:23 PM
Re: Building on a Rep
I wonder what would happen if you did replace their hardware, @batye? Surprised that they don't want you to do it. My cable company would love me to change their hardware or cables out because then they wouldn't have to support me whenever there's a performance problem (which, 9 times out of 10, is because of their external equipment).
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 3:22:53 PM
Re: Building on a Rep
Alison, 

"But it could if you use the fact that you're at home as an alibi to a crime -- and the police subpoena (or hack) into your IoT records to demonstrate that none of your appliances were active at the time of the crime."

That's an interesting thought and a great idea for a crime story. :D Your appliances could be programmed to be active even if you are not at home. 

"If we don't have more than a reasonable expectation of privacy in our own homes, then where?"

Well, yes, but then again if we add the data collected by wearables to the data collected by the IoT there is no much privacy left. This is going to become so common that no one is going to worry about it anymore.

-Susan     
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 11:16:14 AM
Re: Building on a Rep
the sad reality I live in small city have only one Co. offering Cable internet, I'm on my fourth modem... but they do not want replace cables inside... they still want me to use they cables... and do not allow me to run my own high quality cables... and purchase my own better cable modem...
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 9:43:57 AM
Re: Building on a Rep
That's bad, @batye! I have wondered about that. We have Internet via our cable company. I pay for the highest speed and use their router, solely so I can call them whenever there's a problem! Every time I call about a performane issue, they blame me for using several devices simultaneously -- we have several wireless computers, phones, tablets, TV, etc., although not all are typically connected at one time. I can only imagine what would happen if we added thermostat, alarm, appliances, etc., to the mix!
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 9:41:10 AM
Re: Building on a Rep
People keep saying consumers will get used to less privacy. I sincerely hope that's not the case. Just because something becomes standard doesn't mean it's right and it's one reason I back the efforts of non-profits that fight for individual privacy. Does it really matter whether Apple, Google, or some other company knows how often we open the fridge? Perhaps not. But it could if you use the fact that you're at home as an alibi to a crime -- and the police subpoena (or hack) into your IoT records to demonstrate that none of your appliances were active at the time of the crime. Far-fetched? I don't think so. If we don't have more than a reasonable expectation of privacy in our own homes, then where?
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 2:41:06 AM
Re: Building on a Rep
same here... please do share... in my case I got nest... but still have to send my wife to change temperature manualy on the nest... as it keep getting lost connection with my home router...
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
6/1/2014 | 7:07:17 AM
Re: Building on a Rep
Alison, 

"I still believe privacy is a huge hurdle for the home automation market but, as we've seen with apps, not everyone's concerned with that."

As automation evolves and the IoT becomes more common security is also going to improve.

Another thing that could happen is that everybody gets use the new way of living with less privacy if the collection of data results in benefits for the consumers.

And, at some point, all this is going to be simply normal, just as it happened with everything else that people were worried about before. 

-Susan

 
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