Wake up another technology shift is here! Yesterday I read how you can “Tap to Setup” your AppleTV. Yes that’s right wave your iPhone with iOS7 within a few inches and most of the work is done for you. As usual the tech press doesn’t ask “so what?”, or “whats that really mean?”. Where could this go? Some thoughts.
The iPhone and AppleTV share the data over Bluetooth and WiFi. The BluetoothLE on AppleTV for setup apparently set to 12 inches or less. Thus the tap to setup. Yet BluetoothLE works over a range which can be pre-determined up to about 160 ft. So what comes next with the AppleTV? Perhaps Netflix who just introduced profiles? Now it can identify who’s watching. Equally I could set it to start music at certain times of the day when my phone is in the vicinity or when I come home. Having an accurate “Stuart’s” home function is now way more interesting. I’d certainly like to test it with Philips Hue Lights. They could go on room by room as I walked around the house with subtle fade outs (of course I don’t have that many bulbs yet). The Hue app also need reworking.
So what do we have? The AppleTv becomes the iBeacon for everyone in the house, which means the apps in your pocket that control your house now have fine grained location control. For developers this will be huge. For example I no longer need to open Hue each time I want to turn on the lights. They just turn on because I am in the room or in a place in the house. Or my iStrap/iWatch can communicate with my phone apps and AppleTV beacon and do all the same things. Then eliminates the need to keep the phone in my pocket – just a low-powered BluetoothLE device on my arm.
Yes there are many problems with this little scenario. What about the kids, or the dog? Then there is the front door and more. Different locations may be defined by standing there asking apps for actions at those points. Then even the AppleTV may be upset if moved.
Having this degree of location accuracy in the home is both scary and welcoming. “Tap to setup” leaves the functionality in a more “magical” zone for the moment. Still if you want music to automatically turn on when you arrive then you will quickly expand the range (Once we get this control). What’s important to recognize is whether this “iBeacon” is just between the AppleTV and your apps locally or if they report to a central authority each time.
So there’s another play here. Right now all the smart home solutions are running the backends. Yes I can control my Nest thermostat (I don’t have one) using my smart phone. However, I must have the app open to do that and Nest is communicating with Nest Central letting them know how I manage my heat which may or may not be something everyone wants to share. Also if these apps are location aware / geo fenced they tend to eat up battery and aren’t all that accurate. So the heat or lights will probably (rather than guaranteed) go on when you return. An iBeacon notification makes this more efficient and accurate. Example the phone senses the Apple TV and then the apps know where you are and what to do. Effectively your phone is now the “hub for the smart home. Note, interestingly, this iBeacon doesn’t send to Apple or to Philips or Nest. It’s could be limited to just being part of a relationship between the App, you and your location.
There are many things this could activate. Communications, Health, Heat, Light, Doorbells, etc.
While I’m still trying to get my head around implications for the smart home there are real potential cost benefits. Most of the other smart home systems have some form of hub and these devices are expensive and generally incompatible with each other. The current Philips Hue system uses wifi and a hub and a backend. Yet if the bulbs were iBeacons and used BluetoothLE then the app in my pocket can still manage them with new opportunities for the UI. For more speculation that same App could be in the AppleTV and respond to a simple remote control or personal iBeacon bands. If I wanted I could share these signals. Example daughter comes home after school. Her wrist band unlocks the door, activates the lights, sends a message to my phone. I suspect that relationship and set of notifications would go via iCloud.