Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Yesterday a New England-based company called iDevices introduced a Wi-Fi connected light socket adapter that turns any standard light bulb into a smart bulb. The iDevices Socket gives a light bulb the ability to interface with Apple's Siri and other HomeKit-connected products. The socket was first announced at the International CES 2016, but is now available for pre-order on the company's Web site.
The company has released a series of HomeKit-enabled gadgets in the hope that people will be eager to transform their homes into smart ones. The company's line of HomeKit products includes a thermostat and an electric switch.
iDevices products are compatible with Apple's HomeKit, the smart-home interface built into iOS 8 and 9. These can turn an iPhone into a voice command centre, enabling occupants to control the gadgets via Siri. The company's app is compatible with iPhones, iPads and iPods. The app's simple navigation allows users dimming capabilities and a customizable colour light ring that can be used as a night light or to add ambiance to any room.
iDevices touts its abilities to eliminate the complexities associated with setting up a smart home, currently an endeavour primarily for technology enthusiasts and early adopters.
The company is right in pointing to the difficulties in setting up the connected home — it's a convoluted task. Home owners have to contend with incompatible standards and conflicting ecosystems. All major hardware suppliers have their own preference for interfaces and connectivity. It's difficult even for experts to follow. The socket and the other gadgets from iDevices are simple to set up and work well on their own without the need for additional hardware.
But simplicity has its price. The socket costs $79 while some stand-alone connected bulbs are available for $50, and regular LED bulbs are now down to just a small premium over older-style bulbs. At this price it will be interesting to see if the new offering from iDevices ignites the interest of consumers.
iDevices has dedicated itself to Apple's HomeKit product line, meaning it should fold into the extensive iPhone ecosystem with relative ease. But that alignment means that it will not even be considered in the very large number of households that also use Android. We expect that few consumers will want household fixtures like lighting to be tied in a technical way to their choice of phone or tablet. This illustrates the problem for smaller companies in the smart-home market as our main scenario plays out: the large ecosystem players will come to dominate this market over the next two to three years.