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Built in to iOS 8 are tools that Apple refers to as HomeKit. As an iPhone or iPad user, this is not something you have direct access to, because they’re tools designed for use by app developers and companies that manufacture home automation-related products that can be controlled wirelessly using an iPhone or iPad.

In the last few years, dozens of companies have released cutting-edge products related to home automation that are affordable and extremely easy to use. Some of the most successful home automation products released thus far include the Philips Hue Lighting System (www.meethue.com), NEST thermostat (www.nest.com), and the Kevo Kwikset automated door lock (www.kwikset.com).

In addition, every major home security company, including ADT (www.adt.com) and Xfinity Home Security (www.comcast.com/home-security.html), has introduced complete systems that can be remotely controlled from an iPhone. These systems enable you to control the burglar alarms, smoke detectors, door locks, lights, and the garage door opener, for example.

There are also many inexpensive do-it-yourself home security and monitoring tools that don’t require an ongoing monthly fee. For example, for about $100.00, you can purchase a wireless camera that can be used for home security (or as a baby/pet monitor). It can be plugged in anywhere in your home, and then will transmit live video and sound directly to your iPhone, which you can view from anywhere in the world. For these cameras to work, an in-home wireless network is required, plus your iPhone requires Internet access.

Most cable and satellite TV companies and DVR (digital video recorder) makers, including TiVo, have also developed proprietary apps that allow iPhone (or iPad) users to remotely program and control their home theater system from virtually anywhere, and in some cases, stream content that’s saved on a DVR directly to an iPhone or iPad’s screen for remote viewing.

Meanwhile, a company called Belkin (www.belkin.com) has been a pioneer in the iPhone/iPad home automation arena. This company offers a lineup of WeMo products that include the WeMo Insight Switch electrical outlet and WeMo Light Switch.

The Insight Switch plugs into any existing electrical outlet, and then using a special app, enables users to remotely turn on or off what’s plugged into that outlet using their iPhone or iPad, while the WeMo Light Switch replaces any traditional light switch with one that can also be remotely controlled from a smartphone or tablet.

Belkin has also introduced the WeMo LED Starter Kit to compete with Philips Hue Lighting System and provide consumers with an easy to way install and use programmable LED lights within a home or office. Plus, the company has given Crock-Pot cooking a high-tech twist with the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo, which allows for this Crock-Pot to be remotely programmed and controlled from anywhere using an iPhone or iPad.

In the near future, more categories of home automation products will be made available. One of the more interesting categories are smart appliances, such as refrigerators, washers, and dryers, that will be controllable from an iOS mobile device. Imagine being at a supermarket, tapping on your iPhone’s screen, and being able to determine whether you need to add milk to your shopping list based on what’s currently in your fridge.

Thanks to Apple’s HomeKit tools that app developers are now working with, home automation apps will become compatible with Siri, so they’ll accept voice commands and requests to remotely control various products and devices from an iPhone or iPad.

Plus, security features that utilize the TouchID sensor that’s built in to the Home button of the iOS mobile devices could be used in addition to passwords to keep unauthorized people from remotely accessing or controlling various home automation products being used in your home.

How these HomeKit tools will be implemented by the various home automation companies and app developers is yet to be seen. However, Apple has developed these tools to enhance security-related tasks associated with home automation, and at the same time, has issued some strict guidelines in terms of how these technologies can be used to provide home automation services without infringing on a consumer’s privacy.

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