Apple Home Kit Links to Apple TV

Business and Strategic: In case you missed it, Apple’s TV strategy became a bit clearer this month with the launch of its Developers’ Beta 2 version of iOS 8.1, (build 128407) as the company is now including the Apple Home Kit and targets the AppleTV as the “HomeKit hub”, (at least now as a testing vehicle).

This offers the promise of new “connected” partnerships with brand name home automation companies such as Philips and Honeywell. Products can span the gamut and uses include using iOS devices to control everything from power outlets and light bulbs to locks, thermostats and garage doors. And the link to to the mobile world in the home may just be that little AppleTV set-top-box.

Sometimes referred to as the “Red headed step-child” for Apple, the AppleTV suffers from little news and infrequent updates. AppleTV is stuck in Gen3 hardware dating back in “digital years”, aeons ago to January 2013. The home set-top-box platform was even passed over at the recent Apple Special Event (October 16) that was used to announce the new Retina class iMacs, and iPads, Yosemite desktop and laptop PC software plus Apple Pay.

But the Apple TV is now being linked to a pillar technology play for the company, Home Automation. Apple makes this available as its Apple Home Kit, an SDK (software developers kit) that looks to extend its ecosystem beyond music and video content and into the world of home automation with the big screen TV serving as the home NOC (network operations center.)

ElGato (the cat) “Eve” Smart Home sensor technology using Apple Home Kit integration, shown at Europe’s IFA event earlier this year in Germany, Image Source:

Meanwhile the Apple Home Kit MFi (made for iPhone) technical specification has been published, and serves as a guide for developers and allowing them to create with confidence the add-on devices that will link back to the Apple ecosystem via the iOS interface. Most will be using that same wireless strategy we covered earlier on Display-Central with a low power Bluetooth LE and its iBeacon technology at the center of interconnectivity.

Core to the technology is the idea of using services like Siri voice activation, and giving access to other key iOS 8 applications based on a single (secure) protocol. Mac observers are even expecting connections via the (as yet to be launched) Apple Watch that will have access to the Apple Home Kit as well. According to the reports from AppleInsider, “The new Apple TV software turns the Apple TV into a remote access HomeKit peer, [that] …allows HomeKit devices to sync with the Apple TV, possibly giving users a way to control connected devices even when away from home.”

To some, the long delays in moving to Gen 4 hardware for Apple TV may just be because its home automation technology is waiting in the wings, set to tie Apple’s new pillar technology to digital living room content. If the SDK is any guide, the AppleTV STB, could serve as the key enabler of mobile and fixed display devices for Apple going forward. Much like the long awaited NFC chip technology finally showing up in its iPhone6 smartphones, Apple may not want to tip its hand too early, and that would certainly account for the delay. We’ll see. – Steve Sechrist