Apple Watch and the Smart Home

Apple Watch and the Smart Home

Yes, I’m getting an Apple Watch. It may not be the first “wearable” computer on the market, but it’s probably the first one that matters. The Apple II made computers accessible. The iPhone made them a constant companion. The Apple Watch and other wearables will attempt to make them a seamless part of your every day life.

Look around at any restaurant, waiting room, or concert, and it’s obvious that tiny little computers have already become a huge part of everything we do; the problem is that for many, they have become our lives… It’s exhausting. We’re not meant to live our lives through a glowing 5″ square, and many are realizing that the perks of miniaturized computing aren’t worth the burden of constant engagement. We want to stay connected to the rest of the world, but not to the extent that it becomes a nagging distraction from actual life.

Wearables like the Apple Watch are at their most compelling when they promise to enhance the every day without taking it over. How many times have you glanced at a quick text on your phone, only to lose 15 minutes of your day to “urgent” work emails, lunch photos on Instagram, and a quick game of Two Dots? Our lives can become unhealthy when we saturate ourselves with constant minutia, and the Apple Watch could be a way to remedy that. It’s an attempt to boil the digital down to its most useful form and keep you grounded in the present.

This promise sounds especially useful in the smart home, where every new gadget you install wants you to use another new app with another new workflow for your day. Don’t get me wrong, smart phones are definitely useful for the smart home, but they’re still far from the ideal life companion we’ve been chasing for years. Who wants to lug their iPhone around the house constantly just to turn on the lights? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a seamless “control center” for everything in your home that won’t get lost in the cushions or constantly distract you from your family?

The Apple Watch could be the secret sauce that pulls the modern smart home together in a way that’s truly convenient, useful, and effortless.

I’ve spent a few months daydreaming about some ways the Apple Watch and other wearables could shake things up at home. Take a minute to dream big with me.

A Smarter “Universal Remote”

Most modern smart home products have found great success by turning the smart phone into the primary way you interact with the product. In a world where each gadget formerly required a proprietary control panel and software, users now control everything through one central device that they use every day anyway. It’s extremely handy, but there’s still ample room for improvement.

Smart products become more valuable the less you have to think of them. Since wearable tech like the Apple Watch is always on (and always on you), this opens the door to a lot of compelling usage scenarios beyond what a smartphone-only setup can provide.

Imagine lights automatically switching on and off as you pass through a room, your music following you effortlessly throughout the house, and your coffee maker intelligently switching to the settings you like. Personalization and advanced functionality like this is all conceptually possible with the Apple Watch’s always on tech like Bluetooth 4.0.

What about a context sensitive remote control that shifts its features based on the room your in? When you’re in the kitchen, your watch could display dimmer settings for the dining room light; when you’re in the living room, it could display volume controls and quick input adjustments. It’s exciting to image a device that would actively remove friction from your day.

A Voice for Your Home

Whether it’s a kitchen timer or wrinkled clothes left in the dryer, we forget things all the time at our house. Wouldn’t it be nice to receive gentle reminders on your wrist?

What about a snapshot of who’s ringing the doorbell? Pair your Apple Watch with the Ring Video Doorbell. What about a tap on your wrist when the kids get home from school? I imagine the folks at Wink have an Apple Watch app in the works for their smart home hub.

I’m getting nerdy here, but imagine a bluetooth-equipped iron that lets you know you forgot to turn it off when you left the laundry room… Awesome! These are the types of promises the smart home industry has made for years that could finally be fulfilled with a little notification center that’s always on your wrist.

The Coach You Can’t Hide From

As I venture further into my 30s, my metabolism is finally starting to turn on me. I may be genetically skinny, but my sides are developing love handles at an alarming rate. A constant, persistent reminder to live a more active lifestyle may be just what I need.

What if my Apple Watch knew I was walking into the pantry and tapped my wrist to remind me of my calorie intake for the day? I may skip that afternoon cookie. What if I walked upstairs and was encouraged to do it more, or walked past the exercise room to receive a reminder that I haven’t broken a sweat in months? This sort of functionality may not be there out of the gate, but all of the ingredients exist to make reminders like this possible. My flabby gut is already nervous.

This is just a taste of the disruption we’ll see from the wearables market in the coming years. The Apple Watch is far from the first gadget to enter the fray, but Apple tends to push markets over the tipping point from niche to mainstream. That opens the door for all sorts of innovation in the marketplace, and I couldn’t be more excited about what that means for the smart home.

Hopefully it’s much more than just another screen to look at.


Eric is the creator of At Home in the Future and has been a passionate fan of the future since he was seven. He's a web developer by trade, and serves as the Director of Communication and Technology for a large church in Nashville, TN (where he and his family are building a high tech home in the woods).