The home automation is heating up, with both Apple and Google announcing home automation APIs. Google’s purchase of Dropcam also signals their intention to be a major player.
Many home automation devices (e.g. sensors for home security) run on battery power to eliminate the need for costly wiring. Low-power wireless allows for powering these device with coin-cell batteries. Zigbee and Bluetooth Smart (I’ll use BLE as it is less of a mouthful) are two of many lower power wireless communication protocols in use today.
Apple embraced, the then nascent, BLE, by supporting it on the iPhone 4s, and by using it to implement iBeacon. This shifted the balance away from Zigbee to BLE, but ZIgbee still held one key advantage, range. Zigbee is a mesh network, meaning any node can communicate with any other node, allowing messages to be passed from node to node over long distances. BLE is a star network, where peripheral nodes can only communicate to a central master, and messages are limited to the range of a single transmission.
Early this year CSR announced “Game-changing Bluetooth® Smart solution enables whole home control from the smartphone for the first time”, where the BLE standard was tweaked to allow messages to be passed from between peripheral nodes, extending the communication range.
Early this month Samsung announced “Samsung Unveils Industry-First Bluetooth Mesh Network Enabled Smart LED Light Bulb”.
Mesh network BLE may indeed be the game-changing technology for home automation for Apple, as it would allow a single central device (perhaps the next Apple TV) to communicate to every wireless node even in larger homes.
Phillips Hue, is the smart LED light available at Apple Stores today. It runs on Zigbee, and requires a hub to bridge to the iPhone.
As Samsung is the first player to introduce a mesh BLE product, will Apple Stores carry it?