Last week Ecobee Inc. announced that its new smart thermostat, the Ecobee3, will be sold at Apple Stores in the United States. This is the first Ecobee thermostat sold by Apple that is HomeKit enabled.
Announced in June 2014, HomeKit is an Apple-created framework that enables developers to create software to discover, configure, communicate with, and control devices for home automation. By developing a language, Apple hopes market fragmentation within home automation could be solved, as products from various manufacturers could more easily communicate with each other. These devices could then be controlled using Siri on any Apple mobile device. By doing so Apple hopes to make their iPhones and iPads more significant devices in the potentially large and lucrative home automation industry.
Partnering with Ecobee has many benefits for Apple, in terms of attracting new customers and promoting HomeKit. Ecobee will also benefit from a sales channel that will boost its brand recognition and allow the company to further challenge Nest, the market leader for smart thermostats in the United States.
This partnership also means that Google and Apple will once again be competing head-to-head for dominance in the tech industry. As these two companies have dominated the cellular phone industry over the past few years, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the smart thermostat market reacts.
IHS estimates that smart thermostats made up just 16 percent of all thermostat unit sales in 2014. Other manufacturers may have to investigate partnerships with utilities or home security providers in order to see if there is enough opportunity in the market to justify additional investment and support long-term growth.