Is Apple HomeKit good for Internet of Things startups?

Apple’s announcement of a home automation ecosystem has been welcomed by some Australian startups specialising in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Apple announced HomeKit earlier this week as a major new feature of iOS 8. The software adds the ability to control smart light bulbs and a variety other connected gadgets in the home.

At an IoT event that was part of Vivid Sydney, startups Homeboy and Ninja Blocks voiced excitement about HomeKit. However, another startup, MooresCloud, cautioned that Apple’s move into IoT seems aimed at taking over the home.

HomeKit creates the opportunity to easily integrate different IoT products in one ecosystem, said Mark Richards, CEO of Homeboy, which specialises in home security. Doing that currently requires a business partnership, he said.

“The idea that there’s this open framework and everyone can plug in ... gives the opportunity for a small company to do very well.”

However, Richards said that the arrival of HomeKit might not be welcomed by vendors that make hubs for controlling different IoT gadgets, he said.

That’s exactly the business that Ninja Blocks is in. But the startup’s president, Daniel Friedman, said he sees a path to success even with a dominant Apple ecosystem.

While HomeKit might eliminate the need for hub hardware, Friedman predicted the technology could easily transition into a software model.

“I disagree that the hub is going to disappear.”

Friedman noted that Ninja Blocks had been preparing for Apple’s entrance. “We saw the writing on the wall about a year ago,” he said.

He applauded Apple’s goal of unifying a diverse range of IoT products under one consistent user interface. “I think it’s great.”

MooresCloud CEO Mark Pesce appeared more wary about Apple’s ambitions in releasing HomeKit.

“Apple never saw an ecosystem it didn’t want to own,” said Pesce, whose startup makes smart lighting. “There is a 900 pound gorilla here. We just haven’t seen it yet.”

Pesce predicted that HomeKit is part of a larger initiative to control the home using other Apple technologies including iBeacons and the rumoured iWatch smartwatch.

“It’s putting the framework in place for that so that once that smartwatch or thing is out there, all of the other devices are now already [connected] and it is now game over.”

Adam Bender covers startup and business tech issues for Techworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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