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Is home automation the next tech battleground?

article image Apple's stores already sell a number of items such as Nest thermostats.

APPLE may be preparing to dive into the smart home market during the Worldwide Developers Conference on 2 June 2014, according to The Financial Times.

To date, major players in the mobile space have been tussling over the wearables and automotive markets, but Apple's move may open the Internet of Things as a major technology market, and blur the lines between the smart home and smart phone markets.

While IoT and the home automation market have been around for some time, they have to date been dominated by a plethora of smallish independent competitors. The 2014 Google acquisition of smart thermostat company Nest Lab, however, indicated interest on the part of big players in the sector. Samsung, another big mobile player, is leveraging its white goods business to release washing machines and refrigerators that can be controlled using its smartphones and watches.

The report from The Financial Times indicated that Apple will seek to turn its iPhone into a remote control for household items such as lights and security systems. An Apple-run smart home ecosystem would emphasise ease of use and intuitive automation capabilities.

According to insiders, Apple is negotiating with a selected group of device makers to certify their smart home devices to work with its new system. Apple will also seek to sell these devices in its own retail stores.

Apple's stores already sell a number of items such as Nest thermostats, Dropcam wireless cameras, and Philips Hue lightbulbs. But these are controlled by separate apps developed by the individual suppliers.

Technologies that could contribute to an Apple smart home system include the iBeacon indoor positioning system, Bluetooth connection and streaming technology, and near-field communication, which is anticipated to be built into the next iPhone.

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