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Knock Knock! Who's There? Apple, With HomeKit.

Apple unveils an SDK for the "smart" home.

Vjeran Pavic

Earlier today, Apple Inc. announced an upcoming home automation software kit that will allow iPhone users to control their homes with their phones in a way that is potentially different from the way they do now.

Called HomeKit, the software will rely on a common network protocol that uses secure pairing to recognize a person’s iPhone. The iPhone can then trigger front doors, garage doors and a whole host of other home functions.

The announcement was part of a broad presentation to developers at Apple’s annual developers conference, WWDC.

Using Siri, Apple’s virtual personal assistant on the iPhone, users of HomeKit apps will also be able to use voice commands to signal that it’s time for bed and that the doors should be locked and the lights dimmed.

The “smart” Internet-connected home has become a hot topic in recent months, especially since Google’s $3 billion acquisition of smart thermostat-maker Nest Labs back in February. (Nest Labs, of course, was co-founded by Tony Fadell, a former Apple iPod executive; Fadell spoke at our Code Conference last week about Nest’s plans to be even more present in consumers’ homes). Google is also reportedly mulling a bid for home security startup Dropcam.

But there are plenty of others in this relatively new space as well, ranging from Lowe’s Home Iris platform to Washington, DC-based startup SmartThings. These all currently take the approach of creating a “hub” for the home, which acts as a kind of router that third-party devices then wirelessly connect to. Under the new protocol that Apple is introducing, however, the “hub” hardware might not even be needed.

Apple already sells a variety of these smart home devices in its retail stores, too, from thermostats to light bulbs, so it will be interesting to see which app makers and home device companies emerge as the company’s official partners with its new HomeKit SDK.

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