Home automation systems have been around for a long time. As an integrator I first started working with Crestron in 2002. But they had been doing commercial and residential automation systems long before then. One of the biggest complaints from those in the tech industry is that systems such as Crestron, Control4, and Savant are too proprietary in nature. And while they most certainly are, there are good reasons behind this. (such as, gasp! making a profit)
Of course for most in the tech industry typically drools all over themselves and ANY product that Apple brings to the market. The tech bellwether has recently stepped into the world of home automation. It might seem a like a natural progression for a company that makes computers, phones, and phones that look like watches, but they are going up some very established players with significant dealer bases.
Products Must Be Profitable
One of the most important decisions an integrator has to make when choosing their product lines is the level of profitability it offers. This isn’t as simple as choosing which product has the best margins. In fact there is A LOT more that goes into it than that.
The interface and product reliability are of course on the top of the list. But the smart home automation system must also be easy to configure and install. If an integrator can only perform a few installations a year because jobs are difficult to finish it becomes a money loser. Many installers experienced this with Crestron not that long ago. And this led to the success of Control4 and Savant as dealers looked for better (and more profitable) solutions. They focused on helping installation companies finish jobs on time and on budget, rather than burning through tons of time trying to program a complicated system.
And while Apple will undoubtedly have a beautiful interface for their system, if setup isn’t completely painless, it will require a professional to install. However, Apple products typically have a razor thin margin. This means that most integrators won’t want to sell it as there is very little money to be made.
Dealing with Multiple Apps
One of the biggest complaints with the system so far is that it requires using multiple apps. You can bridge all of the apps together using something like iDevice, but even then the interface can be clunky and slow.
A typical home automation system might include lighting, home audio video, climate, security system, and door locks. This means you could be dealing with up to 5 apps to get it up and running.
To date the user experience has been less than ideal. While I’m sure Apple will eventually sort things out, they have a long way to go to catch up with the established players in this field.
A Trial Run
One company in did reach out to us to talk about their experience with the HomeKit system. Wicktors of Bend Oregon recently installed HomeKit for a customer. They gave it relatively good grades for ease of installation, but they had to handle all of the setup as the homeowner was unable to do it themselves.
This is just one indication that the system still has a ways to go before it’s ready for mass consumption. Their thoughts were the same as mine. Until there is more money in it, there would be little reason to offer it as a product line.