Remember HomeKit?  While it may have had its problems, many still love it. If you have any interest in home automation, you’ll know that Amazon and Google have left Apple languishing in the smart home arena.

Things could be changing, though.

A recent Bloomberg report suggests Apple is aggressively
assembling a new team in an attempt to claw back some of this lost ground.

The search is on for engineers to work out of Cupertino and
San Diego. Along with 15 listings on the Apple website and listings on
third-party job boards, Apple is also recruiting industry-wide. They’ve grabbed
talent from Qualcomm Inc and Amazon, but what are they looking for, exactly?

Well, some of these listings ask for expertise in developing
battery-powered wireless devices with camera modules. Apple is making a subtle
move on the hardware side of the business. Beyond that, there’s very little
except rampant speculation.

Where does Apple stand in terms of the smart home of today, then?

Apple’s Current Role in the Smart Home

Apple’s powerful HomePod
captures just 5% of US smart speaker market share. Amazon accounts for 70% of
American smart speaker sales and Google 20%.

Amazon continues to capitalize on its first-to-market
advantage and the solidity of its marketing channel and Prime membership base
to push more and more Echo devices.

While HomePod is objectively an excellent speaker, it’s
costly, highly reliant on Apple services, and operates with a much small number
of connected smart devices.

Whether Apple decides to develop more smart speakers or to
throw in a smart display to compete with the multiple Echo and Google Home
devices remains to be seen. Equally, the future importance of smart speakers
depends almost entirely on the continued dominance of voice control so it’s
tough to call how things will develop here.

Looking beyond digital assistants, Apple’s core offering is
still weak compared to what’s up for grabs from the competition…

Apple’s HomeKit works with roughly 450 third-party devices.
Contrast this with Alexa’s compatibility with 85,000 smart devices from almost
10,000 manufacturers or Google’s smart home platform that works with over
10,000 devices from 1000 or more major brands.

To explore how Apple might revamp their smart home efforts, it’s necessary to glance at a company the Cupertino giant recently acquired…

The Significance of Silk Labs

The reported Apple recruitment drive is being headed up by
Andreas Gal. Former Mozilla CTO Gal founded Silk Labs, a San Francisco start-up
that worked on developing an AI-based platform capable of linking together IoT

When Apple stealthily acquired Silk Labs, it was the latest
in a series of acquisitions suggesting that Apple is certainly not yet out of
the smart home game. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems that Apple is looking to
do more than roll out iterations of products already in place. And with the
smartphone market becoming pretty saturated, the company could certainly use a
new direction.

Why, then, is Silk’s AI platform so notable and relevant to
the new direction Apple might take?

First, the assistant can easily modify its behavior based on
sight and sound as it becomes accustomed to the user. Also, the assistant is
designed to work on-device, reassuring in terms of privacy. With so many data
breaches over the past eighteen months, this issue will only become more
sensitive for consumers.

What’s unclear is how Apple will develop and roll out AI across various areas like augmented reality.

We’re not here today to make definitive value judgments on
what Apple will do next.

Here at Smarthome, we are genuinely excited to see what developments take place as we edge closer and closer to CES 2020 and the plethora of products that always heralds. Apple doesn’t often participate in these events, so we’ll likely need to wait until March for more than just rumors.

One thing we will predict: we feel that by the end of 2020, there could very well be a sizable shift in that smart home market share.

Final Word

Well, trying to second guess the most pioneering and innovative tech company on earth is an impossible call. There’s also very little information available right now about how Apple might pivot. Among all the speculation, though, it seems clear that AI will be at the forefront of developments, and we’re genuinely excited to see how Apple performs in the smart home of 2020.

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