And the race is on: echo versus Apple TV versus every other hub


Interesting analysis:

(Calvin Robertson) #2

I tried to help my neighbor configure their Apple airport router last weekend. After that experience I would be afraid to get an Apple smart hub. I’m a control specialist at work and would consider myself tech savvy, but Apple has eliminated all common avenues of troubleshooting in their routers.


The idea is that it won’t be a “Apple Smart hub” but rather that the Apple TV streaming device will automatically act as the hub. No configuration required. It basically works the same way as a Roku or a chromecast.

Based on the early indications, many analysts think that Apple wants to eliminate the whole idea of a separate hub, and of pairing devices. they want automatic discovery the way iBeacons work.

Whether they can actually make it happen that way is a whole other question, but that’s one reason people are so interested to see what looks like the Apple TV icon in the center of the next apple developers conference logo.

we’ll see what happens. But the point of the story that I linked to is that the Amazon echo does not have to be configured in the way that most home automation hubs do, and as of last week, it can already control a couple of WeMo switches and Phillips hue lights.

Now we’ll see what Apple delivers.

Personally, I don’t think we’ll see any of the stuff as a full-fledged home automation system for about a year. But I am expecting to see some interesting options available by summer 2016. Just a personal gifts.

(Calvin Robertson) #4

It’s an interesting concept, but apple then either has to convince Leviton, Fibaro, GE, etc. that some other form of wireless communication is the way to go or figure that everyone will buy the “iSwitch” and “iLight”. I think that Zigbee and Zwave have become too mainstream now for Apple to completely ignore.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #5

I agree, but I’ve read a few articles and heard opinions that strongly feel ZigBee and Z-Wave are on their way to becoming obsolete for home use due to the hubless advantages of Bluetooth and WiFi (both are ubiquitous in smart phones, etc.).

I think it’s far too early to declare that… But there is certainly some logic and evidence. A very high proportion of ventures designing “Things” are focused on WiFi, Bluetooth, or BLE (take a count on Kickstarter or IndieGogo, etc.).

(Bruce) #6

I have a 9 year old first gen Lutron lighting system, and it is WAY obsolete. So, Z-wave or Zigbee going obsolete, or both, is quite imaginable. All of us early adopters will be challenged by the stranded investment, just like I am now with Lutron.

(Ron S) #7

I am not a networking guy but a Wall Street financial app architect… Boring and not tech savvy as you guys… But the AEBS routers were easiest for me to configure (was running 3 at one point. One handling DHCP and rest in bridge - Ethernet connected)…with rock solid internet in old 60’s house in every corner. Concrete, split level and what not.

Apple may provide a platform and certify products on it but I don’t think they will directly get involved with users on HA at a one to one basis.

FOR ME WHOEVER CAN WIN THE MAINSTREAM USERS WILL BE THE WINNER. Not the techies and pseudo techies like me. If your missus/gf/partners/kids/gramps/grammas/pets can use it with ease… You have a winner.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #8

Well… Apple managed to make the smart phone (and pad) easy and ubiquitous and the winner.

There are many faithful folks who think that win will be repeated in some other consumer sector such as TV, cars, or home automation.

(Ron S) #9

Totally totally understand… Luv it when a one year old kid is flicking screens on iPads and iPhones! And know what actually they are doing and expecting… :slight_smile: and seeing my old mom in India skyping me every weekend without fail and the ease and teaching pop how to do it… Priceless! They make winners!

(John) #10

Uh what? I’ve configured quite a few Apple Airport routers and they are so much easier to configure than any other router out there.

(John Rucker) #11

I just signed up to get an echo. Keeping my fingers crossed I get picked!

Not that anyone asked but I predict the future of home automation protocols for remote battery powered devices will be Bluetooth LTE or Thread. Thread is the 802.15.4 IPv6 based protocol (Nest uses an early version of thread) that is scheduled to be released this fall. The Thread Group just announced they are going to adapt ZigBee’s cluster library. So the devices and applications built on ZigBee clusters can be ported over. Thread fixes a lot of stuff that “grew into” ZigBee’s network with its multiple profiles and security models. It was built from the ground up to address the needs of sleeping devices (battery powered or energy harvesting). They have also added a lot of cool self healing and self management features to its mesh network. I have high expectations and hope it lives up to what they are touting! We need a reliable predominant home automation protocol and get past this make it work mentality that is giving us a black eye. Reminds me of the Ethernet vs Toke-Ring days and the world was a better place once that ended. Two fingers taped on chest, kissed, and saluted to Bob Metcalfe!

As for powered devices, in my opinion, vendors will continue to use WiFi as the hubs are already out there and its low hanging fruit. But keep in mind WiFi just doesn’t work well for a battery device or a device that doesn’t even have a battery. I know there is some work to make new WiFi specs that will address this but that will require people to buy a new hub. At that point the “already out there” appeal will be gone and that gives a new technology an opportunity to slip in. Thread has a chance to slip in and be the protocol.

By the way Samsung is part of the Thread Group.


@JohnR ,

I agree. So far what I’ve seen of Bluetooth mesh seems to have almost all of the same issues as the other mesh protocols without really bringing anything new to the table except the fact that smart phones already have Bluetooth. Of course it’s early days on that, and there may be more stuff then we know now.

On the other hand, thread, as you mentioned, has a lot of new stuff. And thread is a stealth protocol, and those tend to do well in consumer installations. that’s what Bluetooth was originally. You didn’t know what you bought, it just worked. It felt almost like a brand-name decision. Not a technical one.

The next year is going to be interesting, for sure. :blush:

(Morgan) #13

@Enitech Yeah, Apple is very different you have to just let it do its thing compared to other hardware and software and then it works much better. I’m a software architect, and I build a lot of Windows applications and use linux but whenever i’m working on apple devices, I have to conscious focus on NOT trying to understand it and just let it do its thing and it is much better experience.

Very different that everything else I have.

(Morgan) #14

ST really, REALLY needs to get their Hub v2 out before that Apple TV announcement, or it could be in trouble.


Unless the June Apple developers conference also includes announcements of a bunch of homekit ready devices you can actually buy, rather than just read about, I think smartthings will still have some time.

(John) #16

You’d be surprised. Just the announcement will cause many people who may have considered something like SmartThings to wait for the Apple products.

Heck, I’ve got plenty invested into my current SmartThings setup but if the Apple ecosystem looks good I’ll switch in a heartbeat.

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #17

Have you looked at Broadcom? I have contact information if you’d like to get detailed info (and possibly join their NDA). Their mesh presentation to the San Francisco Home Automation Meetup sounded impressive.


Are you referring to their Wiced products? The WiFi one has been around for about 5 years, never got any traction because wifi just uses too much juice for battery operated devices. A lot of people use it for prototyping, it’s slick for that.

Or something else?

( co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #19

Bluetooth (BLE), actually. I have one of the developer dongles, but adding mesh firmware requires NDA. It is under the Wiced brand.

(Christopher Masiello) #20

Apple will not be a big player in this field for a while. There are several reasons:
A. They don’t get into anything first. NOTHING
B. This is a field that absolutely requires playing nice with others. Apple is terrible on open standards, interconnectivity, cooperation, etc. (Look at your phone, computer, ipad connectors. Look at how bad of a partner they are on standards.)
C. They don’t need to. Every HA product and ecosystem has iOS apps already. ST, Wink, Amazon, Nest, etc. Why do they need to spend time and money? You’re already going to control it through their device.

Just to pre-empt fanboy/hater replies - I’m typing this on my MacBook Pro. I run ST on mine and my wife’s iPhone. I have a box with about 6 old iPods. I’m on board, they just don’t play well with others because they don’t need to.