Amazon has rolled out an impressive platform for automation in a short time. The digital assistant Alexa and associated Echo speaker lets you control a variety of devices in the home. Apple chooses with HomeKit a cautious approach with greater emphasis on security and privacy. They have more control over the available accessories that work with HomeKit. But maybe this approach could cost them customers. Amazon opts for an open system and expands much faster.
Alexa: already 250 devices
Apple wanted with HomeKit to connect all kinds of devices in the home together, but the rollout has been slow. The number of available devices lags behind that of competitor Amazon, which already can report some 250 compatible devices. A major reason is the strict requirements set by Apple and the fact that all devices must be certified. Reuters has lay hands on internal information where this is still underlined.
The interests of both companies are very different: Amazon wants a smart assistant to keep in touch with customers, keep them shopping at the Internet giant. It doesn’t matter through which device that happens. Hence Alexa assistant is present in its own echo speaker, but also in a recently announced child speaker of toy manufacturer Mattel, in refrigerators from LG and General Electric table lamps. In addition, the voice assistant can be found in dozens of other products made by external manufacturers.
HomeKit: around 100 devices
Apple would never allow such a thing: they have an interest in the iPhone as a central device in your life. Manufacturers can create smart light switches, make lamps and air conditioners, but voice control must happen via an Apple product. There are now about 100 certified devices for HomeKit.
Manufacturers who want to make HomeKit devices must use special chips. They also have to purchase Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips which are relatively expensive and the company demands that the hardware is made by companies that are certified by Apple. Manufacturers who want to offer HomeKit hardware are forced to make higher production costs, which they set off in their prices for consumers. As a result, HomeKit products are relatively pricey.
The confidential information which Reuters owns, show that only a small proportion of factories certified by Apple specializes in hardware for home automation.
If developers finally found a factory, product samples must be sent to Cupertino. Apple test this expanded compatibility, a process that might take three to five months. That sounds logical in itself. Well, testing takes time, but the developers have to sit waiting in the meantime. They may not even remotely announce that they are engaged in HomeKit certification of a future product. With these strict requirements, Apple wants to ensure that its well with the security and the use of HomeKit hardware.
For some developers, that’s worth it. Apple found errors in the Nano Leaf system whose manufacturer was not informed. For manufacturers, HomeKit certificate is a confirmation that everything has been tested thoroughly. Consumers should also be reassuring: what you buy is just okay and safe. You don’t feel that you’re dealing with a beta product, as can happen even with items of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
With Alexa, everything goes much faster
But still … Apple’s thorough approach may also lead them to go behind hopeless. With Alexa, a license is not required, although it may be more favorable to promoting products. Amazon informs us within 10 days whether a product gets the ‘Works with Alexa’ label. All manufacturers have to do inspections of the software code. There are no special chips. Amazon can not guarantee the security of all devices that use Alexa is well regulated. The ease of use is better organized with Apple: you open the Home app and add a new device. With Alexa accessories, you need to install the appropriate app and then add a new ‘skill’ to Alexa.
HomeKit vs. Alexa
Yet it’s not always the best system that eventually wins. But it ultimately determines what the true brands of home appliances are going to choose: the ease of Alexa or the always-difficult-answer Apple.