LAS VEGAS — Until today, we knew the device makers Apple intended to partner with for its HomeKit smart-home initiative, we just didn’t know much about what the actual devices would be. Now we know at least one more of them with the announcement of the iDevices Switch smart power plug.
To review, HomeKit represents Apple’s effort to build support for smart home devices directly into iOS and into iOS apps. It announced a handful of HomeKit partner companies back in June 2014 at its World Wide Developer Conference Event, but since then the company hasn’t communicated much about HomeKit.
Developer notes suggest features like voice control using Siri, the ability to tie device behaviors together via an iOS control screen (“When I unlock the front door, turn on the lights”), as well a way for app makers to tap into various devices. Imagine a Weather.com iOS app triggering your air conditioner to come on when the local temperature hits 85 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
To enable features like that from your iOS device (iOS 8 or higher, to be specific), you’ll need HomeKit-compatible devices. iDevices Switch will be one of the first such products when it ships sometime in the first half of 2015.
The Switch isn’t the first smart plug. Belkin, D-Link, and others have sold connected power plugs for years. The premise behind Switch isn’t that much different than its predecessors. Thanks to networking capability built into the outlet hardware, you can use your smartphone to control things you plug into the Switch.
In the most basic sense that usually means turning lamps, TVs, small appliances and other devices and gadgets on and off remotely, or putting them on a timer. If you have other smart devices around the house, you can also use the app to set one smart product to trigger behaviors in one or more.
For Switch, it talks to your home network via Wi-Fi, and via Bluetooth can also act as a bridge for other devices that don’t have Wi-Fi themselves. Smart door locks, for example, usually run on batteries since hard wiring isn’t practical for most residential door designs. To save power, most smart locks use Bluetooth to connect to your phone, and rely on some kind of hub to get out to the larger Internet. Because it incorporates both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, iDevices’ Switch can act as that hub. Lock-maker Schlage will have a connected, HomeKit-compatible lock that takes advantage of that feature.
Expect Switch to cost $49.99 when it comes to market later this year (international pricing and availability has not yet been announced but directly converted that’s £33 or AU$62). That puts it on competitive ground with other smart power plugs.
by Rich Brown
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BYSwitch also has a color-customizable night light built-in, a charming added touch.