Nearly a year after Apple announced housebuilders would start putting HomeKit devices into new properties, the first iOS-powered homes are ready for their new owners to move in.
At last year's WWDC, Apple revealed that four property companies -- KB Home, Lennar, R&F Properties, and Brookfield Residential -- were planning to support HomeKit gear in new properties. Earlier this month, Brookfield Residential became the first to realise its connected home plan.
Apple's smart home vision will be going live in a number of neighbourhoods in southern California, including Vientos, Candela; Terracina at Rancho Tesoro in San Marcos; Flora, Prado; and Haciendas at Escaya in Chula Vista.
When the new owners walk through the door of their properties, they'll be able to automatically control the lighting, temperature, and even the locks through Apple's Home app or just by asking Siri.
In the year since the WWDC announcement, Brookfield Residential has been working with tech staff, creatives, and product management execs to define a standard for its future smart homes -- covering not only which equipment will be included but also the broadband spec needed to support current and future generations of connected home gear which the company plans to offer.
After testing smart home setups in pilots with some of its homebuyers, it settled on using Lutron Caseta lighting, a Honeywell Lyric T6 smart Wi-Fi thermostat, and Schlage Sense Smart deadbolts, along with a Ubiquiti wireless access point across its new properties. "We ended up scaling back to what we knew would work on day one," Brookfield Residential COO Adrian Foley said. The company has already sold 18 connected homes so far in the Delano neighbourhood.
The combination of lights, locks, and thermostat "represents the backbone of the core benefits of the smart home -- being able to have the home recognise you when you come home, and open up with lights, locks, and thermostat settings, or have the home wake up for you with light and thermostats settings," he added.
The Apple home tech can also let people check on the state of their home when they're out of the house, to confirm they locked the door on the way out, or that they shut the lights off when they left, for instance. It could even allow residents to let other people into the house when they're not there -- for example, when out-of-town guests arrive or when there's a delivery.
Those who fancy an Apple-compatible home, however, will need to pay extra: there will be an additional cost to cover the HomeKit devices. "Experiences that were luxuries five years ago, today, we're offering in that in homes in the $300,000 to $400,000 price point... we're already putting lights in your home and for us to put a smart home-connected light in is a relatively small premium," Foley said.
All new homes Brookfield Residential builds in southern California from now on will come with the Apple gear installed; it expects 200 to 300 properties will be HomeKit-enabled this year, and that figure will rise to 500 to 600 next year.
As new HomeKit-certified devices become available, the company plans to expand the range of smart home kit available in its properties, and will introduce different connected home setups depending on the asking price of the home. "We're still at rung one of a hundred rung ladder, but we feel like... we're bringing some convenience and some future thought to the new home environment, with what's hopefully a platform -- literally and figuratively -- that can bring some really great things that homeowners will enjoy," Foley said.
If buyers want to add any extra kit, they can upgrade the setup with their own selection of accessories: there are over 100 third-party HomeKit-compatible appliances, including doorbells, fans, cameras, and air conditioners. Equally, in future Brookfield will get in touch with those that have bought a smart home and offer an upgrade.
While the initial HomeKit offering may be fairly modest in scope, the company believes that the advent of connected home technology will eventually change the nature of the relationship between homebuyers and homebuilders. Currently, those buying a property will only have a relationship with their estate agent for the duration of the purchase, and once the sale has gone through, the contact between the two tends to come to an end.
In future, thanks to the smart home tech, Brookfield Residential envisages a future where it and companies like it will regularly get in touch with former buyers to offer a form of 'health check' on their homes.
"This is part of the thinking we've got around extending our relationship with the customer beyond the initial one year move-in timeframe, which is traditionally around how much of the industry has viewed its customer base... the goal would be to view ourselves as a shelter partner and really provide you with feedback on how the very expensive investment you've made -- probably the most expensive you'll ever make in your life -- is behaving," Foley said." I think the quantified self is going to become the quantified home."
Homebuilders could potentially visit homes they have sold after one, three, or five years and update owners on the house's long-term outlook, and any technology or other changes they could make to improve it, using the data provided by the smart home devices.
Further into the future, however, Apple HomeKit could go beyond offering consumers extra conveniences to reflect their mood or plans, and instead the tech could fully automate the home -- with no human intervention required. Rather than having the homeowner up their thermostat when the mercury's about to plummet, the system could realise "we're heading into cold spell, it's going down to 55 degrees, so over the course of the next five days it's going to slowly eke up the heating so the pipes don't freeze," said Foley.
And, as well as consumer-focused automation, the property builders are hoping HomeKit caters to the industrial internet too.
"When we think about leak detection devices, having products that measure stress in materials so that you're not guessing whether that product is going to fail in the next 12 months, it's a very natural progression to think about technology playing a huge part in predicting untimely collapse or breakage. I do believe industrials will be grabbing hold of this. There's a whole series of branches that can come out of that core initiative," Foley said.