This year due to COVID-19, Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) digitally & Google held the "Hey Google" smart home virtual summit.
Both the events happened digitally and without a live audience. The events were brief and not like usual multi-day events of the past. The Apple event lasted only for one hour and fifty-five minutes. While the events were short, the announcements were big and the smart home found good screentime.
Apple WWDC 2020
Apple announced updated features to HomeKit at WWDC 2020 which will integrate HomeKit to HomePod and Apple TV more deeply with iOS 14.
Suggested Automations When you add new HomeKit compatible smart home device the Home app will recommend suggested Automations based on time, location or sensory input and make the most of the capabilities offered by the smart device.
HomeKit Secure Video HomeKit Secure Video is Apple’s attempt at on-device security, with cameras capable of facial recognition. With iOS 14 and your HomeKit compatible video doorbell, you will be able to broadcast the video feed directly to your Apple TV and see who is at the door. With facial recognition feature built-in, if the person photo is in Apple photos, HomePod can announce the name of the person at your door.
You can assign an “activity zone” to a smart home camera that focuses on the most important areas of camera view and you can be alerted or turn on a light or start recording on the video camera when the motion is detected in the set zone.
While many of the features above are present with competing smart home platforms, unlike them Apple implementation relies on data stored locally on your devices and offering greater data security to privacy conscious consumers.
Adaptive lighting Homekit can now automatically adjust the brightness/temperature of your connected smart bulbs throughout the day, allowing for things like cooler lights during work hours and warmer temperatures when it’s time to wind down.
Google is working to make it more convenient for users to manage their smart home. Google has shown that it has been working to improve its ecosystem for partner developers to build products with assisted AI and improve privacy and data security for smart home users.
Easy Access When the Android 11 operating system comes out later in 2020 all mobile devices will have a dedicated section specifically for controlling smart home devices. Users can pick whichever device controls they want to include in the menu and can access Google Assistant-controlled devices in the power menu.
Home, away & Gentle sleep routines Google Assistant will also be able to automatically run different routines based on people home or away status. This was already a feature for Nest, but will now be an element of Google Assistant, relying on “presence detection” tech to decide whether to run the routines set up on devices for when everyone is away.
With gentle sleep & wake feature, compatible lights will gradually dim or brighten to simulate the natural light for better sleep.
The compatible smart devices will be a part of those routines soon when the makers create and suggest customized routines to users. The custom routines will be applicable not only to the manufacturer’s devices, but the developer will be able to suggest other devices the routines can work with are in the home.
Local Home SDK To reduce the latency of smart home actions, Google released the Local Home SDK earlier this year. The idea was to do the processing of voice commands on phone or speakers to reduce the latency of performing an action like turning on a light bulb to under 300 ms. This feature was only with Apple earlier and it is good to have Google follow it and make smart home more convenient for user.
Smart Home for Entertainment Devices (SHED) Google announced that it would open up the Smart Home for Entertainment Device (SHED) API to all developers who want to integrate Google Assistant into a smart TV, soundbars, remotes, video game console, or set-top box.
App Flip Google will also release a feature that allows users to ‘flip’ or App Flip between the Google Home App and the Developer App and vice versa to ensure that you can see how the function works and create better routines for your home.
Connected Home Over IP
Back in December 2019 major players like Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Zigbee and others got together to solve the protocol fragmentation issue meaning there are too many communication protocols and frequencies being used to manage your smart home devices
Similar to how USB evolved to be plug-and-play connectivity standard, the initiative aims to give consumers the choice of a connected home ecosystem be it; Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Alexa or Samsung SmartThings.
There is no widely adopted smart home open standard. The working group is building Open Standard that would work over IP (internet protocol) to bring all these devices together, and use technologies like WiFi, Thread for low- power mesh, Bluetooth Low Energy.
The key aspect is the usage of IP as a foundational building block. When all the devices we use to access the internet and communication at homes and office or built on IP protocol. IP provides end-to-end security and privacy, device to device or an app or service.
It was good that both companies mentioned Project Connected Home Over IP, data security & privacy highlighting their commitment to solving the protocol fragmentation problem and being mindful of user privacy. The initial specification of Project Connected Home over IP is expected to release in late 2020. The fact smart home found much visibility in both the events suggests the smart home is an essential element of their ecosystem strategy.