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Apple's Smart Home Promises Innovation, Lacks Partners

Some of the biggest names in smart home tech are missing from Apple's new HomeKit service.

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At today's 25th annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled HomeKit—a network protocol that lets users control thermostats, lights, and other smart home tech with a swipe of an iPhone.

"We thought we could bring some rationality with this space," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, explaining how Apple plans to unify the multiple smart home standards currently in competition.

But not all products are welcome in Apple's closed universe.

Partners displayed onscreen during the WWDC keynote included iDevices, iHome, Osram Sylvania, Texas Instruments, Cree, Chamberlain, Marvell, Skybell, August, Honeywell, Haier, Schlage, Philips, Kwikset, Broadcom, Netatmo, and Withings.

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Apple showed off this list of HomeKit partners at today's WWDC.

While popular products like Honeywell's smart thermostat and Philips' Hue lighting system will likely get HomeKit compatibility, some of smart home's best known names were absent from the keynote.

For example, there was no mention of Nest, Iris, WeMo and—no surprise—Samsung, and it remains to be seen whether HomeKit will play nice with those companies' products. Aside from Haier, no large appliance manufacturers were initial launch partners.

While popular products like the Philips Hue lighting system will likely get HomeKit compatibility, some of smart home's best known names were absent from the keynote.

Those are pretty glaring omissions for a company that aims to create a single operating environment to control the myriad smart home products already on the market.

Of course, we didn't expect any less from a company that required users to stream the WWDC keynote using Safari, Apple's own browser.

We don't know what companies plan to add HomeKit compatibility. What we do know is that badge will be an added incentive for iPhone users to choose Apple-authorized products when they're upgrading thermostats, lightbulbs, and garage doors.

For instance, HomeKit adds an additional layer of security to ensure that only an authorized iPhone can unlock a garage door or change a thermostat.

HomeKit will also allow users to choose "scenes," in addition to controlling individual devices. That means users can make shortcuts that control multiple devices. If you're arriving home, for example, your iPhone can turn on the lights, open the garage door, and get the air conditioner going.

Scenes include Siri integration, too, so you can tell your phone that you're ready for bed and it will turn down the thermostat and make sure the garage doors are closed.

But HomeKit is only as useful as its partners. Apple is as big as it gets in the tech world, but in order to achieve smart home dominance, it will have to share top billing with some of its more notable rivals.

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