Request for HomeKit to be enhanced with advanced AI features for increased smart functionality

Cupertino, December 1, 2023

It's been reported that Apple is working to make iOS 18 its biggest update in years, and I've argued that this is necessary, with artificial intelligence at the heart.

I'd especially like to see Apple bring AI smarts to HomeKit. That is, make Apple's smart home ecosystem really smart.

The term AI has been used for all kinds of nonsense for years, but I think it's ChatGPT, Midjourney and Photoshop's generative features that have shown how a really smart system looks like.

And I'd like to see Apple bring these kinds of smart features to HomeKit. For me, perhaps the biggest defining factor of the new generation of AI systems is that all I have to do is tell them what I'm trying to achieve and let the system take care of the how.

I rely on HomeKit scenes a lot, and creating them can be quite tedious, especially since you may have to add a lot more accessories than you'd expect.

For example, I have a HomeKit scene that I run when I go to bed. This switches on the low lighting in the bedroom, but also switches off all other lights. Because I may have been in different rooms and used different combinations of lights and bulbs, that scene needs to explicitly turn off whatever is on in other rooms. That turns a simple scene configuration into a long-winded configuration.

A simple next step would be that instead of manually checking that all other lights were off, I could simply tell the bedroom low light to be turned on and all other lights to be turned off - without me having to add them explicitly. But a true AI approach would be if I could give HomeKit my intent and let it figure out what it needs to do to get there.

For example, just tell Siri that I want to set the temperature in the living room to 20 degrees Celsius, and let it figure out what heating or cooling equipment might be needed to achieve that. Or maybe I'll come home in the evening.

Currently, I have configured the Home app so that when I unlock the smart lock, it turns on the hall lights. But an AI system would track my movements around the house and figure out what lighting I need.

For example, the system has to learn that when I reach the living room, I want to set the Living Room Relax scene and turn off the hall lights. Now that Matter support is coming for appliances, what if I could load laundry into the washing machine and have HomeKit use presence detection to wait until everyone has left the house to automatically spin the appliance when no one is there to hear the sound?

Or maybe everyone is in different parts of the house. Lawn watering cannot be triggered by set times, but rather by recent weather, to determine when the soil is likely to dry out. Security features can also be intelligent.

For example, if the smart lock on the front door unlocks without presence detection and recognizes the arrival of a family member, it should alert me. How about recognizing that water is flowing through the pipes, but no water drains or appliances are turned on, and alerting a possible water leak?

Or seeing the temperature in a room rising for no apparent reason and alerting me to a possible smoldering fire?

This may require checking the thermostat setting to see if this is explained by the heater responding; the weather, to see if sunlight would come through the windows; and blind positions to see if they let in that light and heat.

AI beyond HomeKit As I recently noted, Apple has been using AI features in its products for over a decade.

But now it's time to pick up the pace. Whatever we may think about Siri today, it was Apple that turned an intelligent assistant into a mainstream product in 2011, with the launch of the iPhone 4S more than a decade ago.

Apple has been at the forefront of AI-powered computational photography features, from Portrait mode to the iPhone 7 Plus in 2016… But there's no denying that AI capabilities have made a huge leap forward since then [and] However Apple might choose to use this new breed of capabilities, iOS 18 feels like time.

I've mentioned HomeKit here, but Macworld's Dan Moren points to possibilities even in products as mundane as Numbers.

If I can look at my budgeting spreadsheet and simply say, “Show me what I spent on streaming services over the last twelve months,” it saves me the time of coming up with a complicated formula.

Do you have your own ideas about how Apple could make iOS 18 smarter – in HomeKit or in other apps? Please share them in the comments.

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