Why the Apple iPhone X matters to smart homes
With the recent release of the new Apple iPhone X, almost two months ago, critics once again condemned Apple for being late to the market, re-hashing existing technologies etc. As usual, many Apple critics just don’t get it – being more focused on features and specifications rather than the user experience – Apple is all about the user experience.
For many, the iPhone X, on the surface looks fairly meek and mild, but in reality is quite groundbreaking the future of smart homes. There are a few noticeable features that stand out for me, that will have an impact on future smart homes: TrueDepth camera, Face ID, Augmented Reality and wireless charging.
Apple’s TrueDepth camera is integral to many of the standout features of the iPhone X. The camera system comprises of many components that allows it to process 3D models for Face ID, Animojis, advanced camera modes that use computational processing, and augmented reality (AR). The advanced technology of TrueDepth camera can detect the position, topology, and expression of the user’s face, all with high accuracy and in real time.
Face ID is the iPhone X’s primary security interface that replaces Touch ID. Face ID uses a system of advanced camera, dot projector, processor and Apple’s Secure Enclave. Unlike other systems, all saved facial information is securely protected and processed within the actual iPhone handset, rather than sending the information to the cloud for processing. As the user continuesly uses Face ID, the system is constantly adapting to physical changes in appearance.
Together with iOS 11 and Apple’s new gyroscopes and accelerometers, the TrueDepth camera introduces a new Augmented Reality framework – ARKit, that allows developers to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, the ARKit framework will take apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways. The TrueDepth camera
Apple’s implementation of wireless charging is not necessarily new, or even ground breaking, but does represent the provision of a truely wireless solution. Apple will quickly implement wireless charging into other mobile devices and accessories that will be rapidly accepted Apple users and will become the new normal.
So, how do and how will these iPhone X technologies affect the smart home market?
As we move away from manually interacting with touch screen user interfaces, and with ambient computing becoming more ubiquitous in everyday products and systems, other methods of interacting with technology will become the new normal. We are already seeing voice control being more prominent, but do not have a high level of intelligence to benefit it, just yet.
The implementation of various sensors is a key requirement for any smart home. Unfortunately sensors themselves are not very intelligent – they require appropriate processing and programming to make them functional. In the future sensors will be able to accurately detect homeowners and residents using similar technologies as the TrueDepth camera system.
Access control systems by way of security cameras and door station intercoms may also implement advanced camera systems to accurately allow keyless and device free access into the home, and be able to identify users and intruders.
Until the challenges of limited battery life are solved, manufacturers need to maximise the user experience of powering devices and other products. As wireless charging becomes more popular, charging pads will be provided in everyday applications allowing users to top up their devices without the fear of being security compromised by plugging in a cable that could also access information on their device.
The Apple iPhone X is a groundbreaking device that provides a new user interface and a decisive move towards a new user experience that is easily accepted. Other companies need to have the courage to challenge the status quo, to provide better user experiences. Apple do this continuously – recently with the removal of the traditional headphone socket, that has not been missed, and most recently, the removal of the home button and Touch ID being replaced with Face ID and new swipe gestures that quickly became so natural.
Smart home products and systems will eventually implement technologies similar to the iPhone X, but needs to do so in a way that doesn’t create fragmentation, to provide the best user experience. A smart home needs to not only provide optimal form and function of the technology products and systems, but also needs to consider the architectural form and function of the home, and the lifestyle of the homeowner and residents.
Why I’m a Mac
I see much of my technology as a ubiquitous, symbiotic system, and believe Apple provides the best ecosystem for me.
My mobile devices; iPhones (yes, my family and I have multiple), iPads (yes, multiple of those as well), Apple Watch, and MacBooks (multiple of those too) are all connected by iCloud. Rather than each being a separate device, they are all really just connected user interfaces in a greater system.
I can pick up my work on any device from anywhere at anytime, and it is automatically synced and kept up-to-date. Photos are automatically synced to my main Photo library where they are saved and ‘pushed’ to my other devices. I can easily and quickly move larger files between devices with AirDrop. Messages can be sent and received with attachments to and from any device. These are just some examples of the many benefits that work for me.
My non-Apple electronic products are selected for their ability to seamlessly fit into my expanding symbiotic system to provide an encompassing total solution.
I appreciate and value good design – Apple cares about design. Apple will challenge the status quo to provide a better way, a more efficient way. Design is much more than what a product looks and feels like, it’s how it works, and the experience it provides.
“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs
Many consumers get tied up with features and specifications, and look to products that have the most features and the highest specifications, rather than understanding and considering the total user experience.
For me, everything just works – like it has for many years, and provides a seamless and satisfying user experience.
* I’m a Mac refers to Apple’s Get a Mac campaign that featured the infamous “Hello, I’m a Mac” television advertisements from 2006-2009.
I have always found note taking a challenge. I have so many notebooks that have been started with a handful of entries, and then not used again. They were misplaced, or never at hand when needed. Notebooks take up space, and then what do you do with them, how long do you keep them?
I relished the idea of the new Apple iPad Pro as soon as it was announced in September 2015, and jumped at it as soon as it was available. I original started with the 12.9″ iPad Pro, and have since settled with the latest 10.5″ model.
The Apple iPad Pro and Apple Pencil combination is my notebook. I have tried and used many notebook applications, and have landed with using Notability. Handwriting is very responsive, without any input lag.
I have multiple notebooks (or Subjects as Notability call them); for work, home, school, projects etc. A single note can be filed within a notebook. I can import a PDF, photo and other documents into a note, and mark it up however I need to. I can easily edit and move any object within the note.
My solution is almost perfect for me. All my notebooks are organised in one place, and are searchable. I have been using an iPad Pro and Pencil combination for more than two years, and love it.
As with any technology, a digital solution is only a benefit if it solves a problem.
How I stopped misplacing things, with Tile
I used to regularly misplace things – specifically my keys and wallet. I came across Tile about year ago, and have not misplaced my keys or wallet since.
Tile have a range of Bluetooth tracker devices that when paired with the Tile app, makes it easier to find things. I use the Tile Mate on my keyring, and the Tile Slim in my wallet.
In the past, I would stress out having misplaced my keys or wallet, that were ultimately located in a jacket pocket, my bag, down the side of the couch, or under a car seat.
With Tile, I can simply open the app to see when and where the last place my phone and Tile were paired together – my phone, keys, and wallet are generally in the same location with me.
If my misplaced item is still within bluetooth range, the app will tell me its proximity, and I can make them play a sound to audibly locate it.
Check out Tile for that extra piece of mind to help you locate your stuff.
Why I like Apple HomePod
Apple is back into the home speaker market (some might remember the iPod HiFi from 2006), at a time when when others have become more established.
This week, Apple announced HomePod to reinvent home music. In addition to providing great sound, expanded AirPlay 2 functionality, and secure voice control, there’s one single reason why I like HomePod – usability.
Contemporary music listening enthusiasts will be familiar with the usual products (e.g. Sonos, HEOS etc.) that integrate to your home network, and connect with streaming services (e.g. Apple Music, Spotify etc.).
As familiar as we have become with the app interfaces of these products and services, users have to exit from their phone’s native music app (e.g. Apple Music) and open a third-party home music system app (e.g. Sonos). Although this is relatively easy, it requires an additional third-party step to enjoy music.
With Apple HomePod, the music listening experience is now complete. Users will simply use Apple Music via the native app or by Siri voice control, to enjoy music however and wherever they want.
For the smart home, Apple HomeHub becomes an integral component of Apple Home to integrate an already mature range of compatible smart home products and systems.
Even more, the HomePod will provide a higher level of intelligence for your smart home. Siri will have improved learning capabilities, opening a realm of future benefits to enhance your lifestyle.
Enjoying music and controlling technology in the home is about to become more usable, more intuitive, and more simple.
If you’re new to streaming digital music, I introduce you to Sonos and their PLAY:1 wireless speaker. If you are already a user of digital music you possibly know all about Sonos, and could probably do with having an additional speaker for somewhere in the home or office.
Sonos were one of the first bunch of manufacturers that made speaker systems for streaming digital music, and made it simple to do so. At the time, the Sonos user interface was very familiar with the Apple iTunes and Apple iPod user interface, making the system very simple to use. Today, most users will control the Sonos system from their connected mobile device.
Where music used to be stored on a computer or associated hard drive of some type (which you can still do), many users will use an online streaming service such as Spotify Google Play Music, Pandora, Apple Music etc. (Sonos indicates their system is compatible with over 30 different streaming services), to have access to millions of songs. Digital streaming radio services can be listened to via popular streaming radio apps such as TuneIn Radio and iHeart Radio.
The Sonos PLAY:1 is a compact speaker with a big sound. Although technically not a wireless speaker (It has no internal battery and requires it’s main power cable to be plugged into a power outlet), it can connect wirelessly to your wifi network. After downloading the Sonos Controller mobile app, and performing a quick set-up, you’re ready to listen to your favourite music, radio or podcast.
The PLAY:1 is great for the bedside table and can be programmed as a wake-up alarm, playing your favourite content each morning, or using the sleep function the help you drift off to sleep in the evening. Although not water resistant, the PLAY:1 is humidity resistant and suitable for being placed in a bathroom.
Although the PLAY:1 is a mono speaker, two single speakers can be linked together within the mobile app to provide stern sound. If you need more sound or better sound quality, Sonos have a range of other speakers, soundbar, subwoofer and accessories to complete your whole-house listening experience.
The only thing the Sonos PLAY:1 lacks is Bluetooth connectivity to connect and stream digital content directly from your phone, rather than needing a wifi connection. Sonos go to some length to convince users that Bluetooth connectivity is not needed, but I would still like it, especially to play Podcasts from third-party podcasting apps such as Overcast or Pocketcasts etc. from my phone.
Available in white or black, the Sonos PLAY:1 currently sells for around AU$250 through local Australian retailers like JB HiFi.
I’m always misplacing basic everyday things; my wallet, my keys etc. Chipolo is a great little accessory that will help you find your things when you misplace them.
Chipolo is a small Bluetooth tracker, about the size of a 50c coin, and available in a range of vivid colours. It features a small keyring loop, enabling it to be attached to your things. The CR2025 battery is replaceable, and last around 6 months,
After downloading the Chipolo mobile app, and some brief setting up, you are good to go, and can enjoy life without the stress of search for your misplaced things.
Chipolo, like other bluetooth trackers, works by being in constant bluetooth connection (or at least when your phones GPS detects a different location) with your smart phone. When your Chipolo connected item is separated from your smart phone, it logs the last time they were together.
If your Chipolo connected item is within Bluetooth range (approximately 20m), simply launch the Chipolo app on your phone to see a list of your items, select the item, and ring it. Hopefully, your item will emit a tune allowing you to locate it. This works really well, if your wallet or keys have been left in your trouser pocket, or perhaps fallen out somewhere close by.
Chipolo will sound an alert on your phone if your connected item becomes separated, saving you from perhaps leaving for the office without you wallet, or similar. To minimise constant item separation from your phone, you can set up quiet-zone locations.
Chipolo even works in the reverse with a misplaced phone. Simply shake your Chipolo, and your phone will sound an alert if in close Bluetooth range.
I love my Chipolos, and have never misplaced my everyday things since having them connected to my keys, wallet, bag, and camera.
Chipolos can be purchased online from Chipolo, or via a local reseller for under AU$40 each.
Tech Gift Guide
Looking for the perfect gift for someone who loves tech and gadgets? Start here with my Tech Gift Guide:
- Tile Bluetooth tracker that helps to stop misplacing everyday things.
- Sonos PLAY:1 mini home speaker with mighty sound.
- Apple iPad Pro tablet
- Amazon Kindle Paperwhite compact e-Book reader for the avid book reader, traveller or minimalist.
- Chipolo Bluetooth tracker that makes it easy to locate your keys, wallet and other things.
- Philips Hue
- GoPro Hero
- Nintendo Switch
- Apple AirPods
- Apple Watch
- Bose QC35 noise-cancelling headphones
- Google Home
- Apple iTunes gift cards
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Books take up a lot of space – you have to put them somewhere. In my attempt to de-clutter with a vision of maintaining a more minimalist lifestyle, I introduce you to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. After experiencing this e-book ready, I don’t think I’m ever buying a paper book again (maybe)!
The compact form factor is considerably lighter than a paperback, and is easy to hold. Unlike tablets, there is no screen glare, even in bright sunlight. The screen is nothing like a tablet or computer screen with the e-ink display being very crisp and easy on the eyes with a high resolution 300 psi screen. The screen front and size can easily be adjusted to relieve eye strain. The built-in adjustable light allow reading in bright sunlight or at night.
The battery life seems to last forever. Amazon says that single battery charge lasts weeks, rather than hours. My Kindle often sits unused for weeks, but there is always ample charge when I need it. I just remember to charge it before I travel, and never need to recharge on a typical holiday break.
The Kindle Paperwhite has WiFi connectivity, that when linked with your personal Amazon account quickly syncs up all your purchased books. The 4GB internal memory supposedly holds thousands of books, that I don’t think I’ll ever fill up. The Kindle can read all of the main e-book formats, that can easily be converted and synced using the free Calibre app.
The only negative with the grey scale kindle screen is that book with photographs or image are black and white, and not presented in colour as they would in a paper book.
The Kindle is a great gift for the avid reader and/or traveller, or for users like myself who don’t want to deal with bookshelf storage of paper books.
The Kindle Paperwhite sells for around AU$169 from local store such as Officeworks and JB HiFi.