Apple and Amazon Adopt Opposing Strategies as Smart Home War Heats Up

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Apple has been in the smart home market for over two years, having introduced its HomeKit framework in the fall of 2014 alongside iOS 8, but HomeKit has been slow to get off the ground because of the company's strict requirements.

Amazon, meanwhile, entered the smart home market somewhat later with its Alexa-enabled Echo in-home speaker officially launching in the summer of 2015, but Amazon's Echo already supports a wider range of products.

The difference between the two? Open and closed development, as explored by Reuters in a new article that details the different approaches that Amazon and Apple have taken when developing their smart home offerings.

Apple maintains strict control over its HomeKit platform, with a heavy focus on security and simplicity. Manufacturers who want to create a HomeKit product are required to use special HomeKit chips priced up to $2, along with specific WiFi and Bluetooth chips.

Bluetooth-enabled HomeKit products from Elgato

HomeKit devices have to be made in factories certified by Apple, and then have to be sent to Cupertino for rigorous testing, a process that can take three to five months and must be conducted in secret.

Amazon's process for smart home products that work with Alexa is much simpler, taking a matter of days to complete. Smart home companies simply need to write code and send it for Amazon to review -- that's it. No special chips, no secure factories, and no specific oversight. Companies can send a product to a third-party lab for testing to earn a specific "Works with Alexa" label, a process that is completed "within 10 days."

Amazon's Alexa-enabled Echo

As Reuters points out, while HomeKit doesn't work with as many products, it supports Bluetooth, is much more secure, and has a quicker setup process. Security, which Amazon can't promise, is a key differentiator between the two companies and a factor that could ultimately entice more consumers in the long run. A non-hackable smart home product like a door lock or a camera provides more peace of mind than quick compatibility.
Amazon acknowledges that unlike Apple, it can't guarantee the security of third-party devices. A company spokeswoman did note that sensitive commands like unlocking doors have an extra layer of security such as a voice-controlled PIN.
Reuters spoke with several HomeKit manufacturers, and all were satisfied with Apple's approach. "It makes for a better user experience," said Incipio senior engineer Ahmed Abdallah, speaking about HomeKit's ability to work offline. "They found issues with our product before we released it that we didn't find in our testing," said Nanoleaf CEO Gimmy Chu.

Amazon's simpler certification process has led to over 250 smart home products being certified to work with Alexa, while Apple has certified approximately 100 devices. Alexa-enabled devices have also been selling rapidly, with an estimated 10 million sales over the holiday season, while Apple's HomeKit sales are less clear.
Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said the company is leading the industry by being the first to integrate home automation into a major platform with iOS 10. "The number of HomeKit-compatible accessories continues to grow rapidly with many exciting solutions announced just this month," she said.
Apple is rumored to be ramping up its smart home efforts through a smart home hub that's similar to the Amazon Echo, with built-in Siri capabilities, a speaker, and a microphone, allowing it to be used for controlling smart home accessories.

For more detail on the lengths that Apple goes to in order to ensure that its HomeKit products are secure, make sure to read the full analysis over at Reuters.

Article Link: Apple and Amazon Adopt Opposing Strategies as Smart Home War Heats Up
 
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avanpelt

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Jun 2, 2010
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Competition is good for any industry. Unless the Echo and the platforms it integrates with have a "Note 7 moment" and there are reports that the systems were compromised, I think Apple is going to trail Amazon and others in this space for the foreseeable future.
 

JRobinsonJr

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Aug 20, 2015
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Security is always a great objective, but ultimately it's about balancing security with usability... and in this case availability. Surely if motivated Apple could establish a more robust HomeKit process for quickly and efficiently getting products on board. I would be happy with an approach similar to Amazon's where devices could be quickly and easily made to work with HomeKit... while those that wanted to could get a "HomeKit Certified" designation. Let the consumer make the choice!

Yeah... I know... won't happen.
 

AppleFan360

macrumors 68020
Jan 26, 2008
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Apple can try to justify Homekit all they want but the fact is that, currently, the Amazon device is much more versatile. Amazon has developed the Echo to the point where anyone can use it easily and it controls just about everything. Sorry Apple, your blowing it on this one.

As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.
 

mrblack927

macrumors 6502a
Aug 19, 2008
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Homekit. Security may be great. But I have 6 timers on my Philips Hue lights for my morning routine and invariably, every morning, at least one of them fails.
Exactly. I love the idea of homekit and I've invested in it heavily. But the more devices I get, the less reliable they all are. Something like this need to have a near 100% success rate for people to really start relying on it over traditional hardwired systems.

I keep waiting and hoping homekit will get better. So far progress has been very slow.
 

flipperfeet

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Aug 19, 2003
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Homekit. Security may be great. But I have 6 timers on my Philips Hue lights for my morning routine and invariably, every morning, at least one of them fails.
I have both, I observe failure to respond or complete a task with equal frequency via HomeKit and Alexa commands. The reality is that there is a fair amount of shared operability of the devices between the platforms so settling on one is not required. Nearly all of my HomeKit devices have an Alexa "skill."

This being said, I will not be adding any smart devices controlling an entry point that do not have a security level equal to or greater than HomeKit.
 

Ramchi

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Dec 13, 2007
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I think NOT all smart home solutions require a great deal of security other than entry points (Door/Windows). Most of the Alexa users may be using SMART Home solutions such as energy consumption, powering on-off devices at home....measure water consumption and measure power consumption etc...Most of these applications may not require strict security requirements
 

vertical smile

macrumors 601
Sep 23, 2014
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Amazon echo and Alexa are a hit.

Like Steve Jobs once said "it just works"
You cannot say that about too many Apple products anymore..... so sad.
Apple is rumored to be ramping up its smart home efforts through a smart home hub that's similar to the Amazon Echo, with built-in Siri capabilities, a speaker, and a microphone, allowing it to be used for controlling smart home accessories.
This rumor has been around for a while, before the ATV4.... Still nothing...

I was interested in some home automation and smart home stuff, mostly for security reasons, but I really am kind of loss when it comes to Homekit products.

Maybe I will check out Amazon.
 

HJM.NL

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Jul 25, 2016
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Another market Apple passes by focusing more on earnings and milking customers. Once they were on the forefront. Today Apple solutions are over expensive and stalling compared to the competition. Apple is slowly eroding it's brand and has become a money driven soulless company.
 

Amplelink

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Oct 8, 2012
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I think NOT all smart home solutions require a great deal of security other than entry points (Door/Windows). Most of the Alexa users may be using SMART Home solutions such as energy consumption, powering on-off devices at home....measure water consumption and measure power consumption etc...Most of these applications may not require strict security requirements
Yeah, that's exactly it. Apple's solution is probably best for the consumer, but it takes too long to implement. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Apple's approach in this day and age is a little outdated. This is the age of release-and-revise. Their approach just takes too long to get to market. Fine in the realm of MacBooks where they've carved out their own little niche that no one can really touch, but not-so-nice in new technologies like Alexa/Siri where first mover advantages can often matter a lot.
 

seatton

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Nov 7, 2013
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The way Apple approaches this sounds really wonderful. You would think the HomeKit compatible products are easy to use. I do not find that's the case unfortunately. My Hue bulbs when I use Home app is buggy, only connects to the hub half of the time I am home. The app on the watch is very slow and not very responsive. It is hard to recommend anyone to use that feature when the software is very buggy.
 

cult hero

macrumors 65816
Jun 6, 2005
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As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.
Security extends much further than that. Would you be bothered if an exploit in your light lead to being able to open your door?

For me, the best security is none of these devices right now. The market as a whole is underwhelming and overpriced. On top of that, having listening devices on 24/7 in my house, especially from companies that love data farming? No way.

I mean, I don't much care if others want to use this stuff or how. I'm a fan of choice. I'm also a fan of not choosing.
 

doelcm82

macrumors 68040
Feb 11, 2012
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As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.
This being said, I will not be adding any smart devices controlling an entry point that do not have a security level equal to or greater than HomeKit.
I'm with flipperfeet on this. I'm a couple of years from building my dream home, so I have time to wait. Market share is not a concern. Security is, especially for doors and cameras.
 

Kabeyun

macrumors 68020
Mar 27, 2004
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As with Mac OS vs Windows and iOS vs Android, Apple will lose this one. Consumers as a body don't seem to be willing to pay a premium for integration and security. This quote is a perfect example:

As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.
Really? I don't even think he believes that. And I certainly care if someone wants to unlock my front door, open my garage, or even prank me by turning on my stereo at 3 in the morning. I'd argue that nowhere is security more critical than in your own home.

Kinda like saying you don't mind people bugging your phone because you don't think you have anything to hide.
 

Zaft

macrumors 68040
Jun 16, 2009
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Apple will let get left behind if it solely focuses on security.

Google home is a great competitor to the echo. I may try one of them, I am leaning toward echo as I am a Prime member.

I just wish they supported different languages at the same time.

In my case English and Russian would be great.
 

adamjackson

macrumors 68000
Jul 9, 2008
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There will be a very hard difference between Pro HomeKit people and those who are against it. I value security and privacy over technology which is why I only use HomeKit devices.

More expensive, less choice, lots of issues but hearing Apple's requirements makes me a proud HomeKit user. I don't want someone watching me eat or sleep or unlocking my deadbolt or turning my house into a dance party w/o my permission.

The failure of HomeKit is perfectly aligned with how iOS, Siri and CarPlay have failed (compared to the Android counterparts). Apple puts privacy over functionality and this hurts them in the long-run. I applaud Apple's commitment to privacy.
 

thisisnotmyname

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Oct 22, 2014
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Apple can try to justify Homekit all they want but the fact is that, currently, the Amazon device is much more versatile. Amazon has developed the Echo to the point where anyone can use it easily and it controls just about everything. Sorry Apple, your blowing it on this one.

As far as security? Sure, it would be nice if Amazon had more emphasis on security but for me, I can care less if someone wants to turn my living room light on and off.
I care whether someone can unlock my doors. I also care whether my devices become part of a bot net. I also care whether an IoT device becomes a hole in my overall network security. Alexa will not be part of my home.
 

Zaft

macrumors 68040
Jun 16, 2009
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As with Mac OS vs Windows and iOS vs Android, Apple will lose this one. Consumers as a body don't seem to be willing to pay a premium for integration and security, although I'd argue that nowhere is security more critical than your own home.
Well as far as IOS goes that is incorrect. People enjoy a stable, secure os for their phone.

It may not be the same for Home automation.