Here’s a post I made in an private thread last week. Needless to say, I’m working on it!
Last week was the annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), where every year Apple transforms into the visage of a sweaty Steve Ballmer, excitedly chanting, “Developers! Developers! Developers!”
In recent years, WWDC has become increasingly focussed on the iPhone and core improvements to iOS. However, this year was different. This year Apple really paid attention to things the developer community had been asking for for years! They released an entirely new programming language completely out of the blue (apparently it’s been internally in the works for over 4 years, with the creator and lead developer being the man behind LLVM and CLANG). They released a ton of new APIs. They released Metal, which will allow lower level access to the GPU on A7 devices. They released HealthKit which is designed to centralize data collection for health, medical and fitness apps. There’s a bunch more stuff, but this isn’t an Apple forum, so I won’t bore you.
So, where does Home Automation come into all this and how is it related to the Spark Core, I hear you asking yourself. Good question!
Among the various things released at WWDC was also a little something called HomeKit, which is designed as a central hub for controlling various home automation devices, even if they’re of different standards. This is huge. Home Automation has been around in consumer form since at least the 1970s, when X10 was first released. Since then, there have been an absurd number of completely incompatible standards come and go, which is still true today.
The big “problem” with Home Automation systems is you’re almost always locked into a single vendor (See: Crestron), which is why prices are sometimes ludicrously expensive. Yes, there are open standards out there, but they haven’t taken nearly as much of a foothold as many of us would like to see, mainly due to it being in a vendor’s best interest to keep you locked into their technology.
So after having a look at some of the developer documentation about HomeKit, it seems that Apple is trying to create a centralized interface that will allow many different vendors and standards to hook into, giving the consumer a “Universal Home Automation Interface” if you will.
A lot of people already use things like the BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi as a central (often web based) interface, where they can programmatically bridge multiple closed products together. This is essentially that, but for the average Joe.
Now, the DIY Automation community is starting to get bigger and bigger, we have tons of Makers out there that want to automate things in their house and on their property. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me at Maker Faire asking if the Core would be good for their project. Stuff like opening and closing blinds, monitoring their gardens, turning outdoor path lighting on, controlling HVAC floor registers, building thermostats, locking their front doors… The list goes on and on.
The Spark Core is inexpensive, easy to use, flexible and powerful. I really think looking more into things like HomeKit, producing more Home Automation libraries and doing a lot more projects/tutorials along the same lines (and then a marketing push towards it all) would go a long way towards making us into the de facto platform for IoT Based Home Automation.
Has anyone else put much thought into this sort of thing?
This is—I suspect—Apple doing what Apple does best: Taking stuff that already exists, making it easy to use and pretty, then selling the hell out of it.
Having a library for the Spark Core that would allow it to hook into HomeKit could be crazy cool and something I’ve been looking into since WWDC.