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Marvell hops aboard Apple's smart home train

Posted: 04 Jun 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart home? API? Apple? Marvell?

While declining to explain details, Marvell's Poulidis agrees: "Security is paramount in the way Apple is deploying the HomeKit."

Since some IoT devices are too small to incorporate an LED or a display, Apple's iPhone comes in handy as the indispensable screen to set up IoT devices and automatically connect them to the home network (see Apple to make home appliances talk to iPhone).

Creating a "scene"

But the raison d'tre of Apple's HomeKit isn't just about turning an iPhone or iPad into the smart home's all-purpose remote control.

Apple's HomeKit framework helps users create and set up a specific "scene," according to Apple. For example, users can turn the home network into a "night mode" so that lighting throughout the home can be turned off and locks turned on. When a "vacation mode" kicks in, lighting could get randomly turned on and off, a sprinkler is switched on at a scheduled time, and the motion sensor system is triggered.

HomeKit devices

Figure 2: What Apple's HomeKit brings to home automation devices. Source: Apple

By promoting a common protocol for home automation devices and making a public API available for configuring and communicating with those devices, Apple is making the home network easy for both users and system vendors.

Without the HomeKit framework, the application that users would need to control their appliances, for example, must be independently created by an individual system vendor. And it would be too time consuming for consumers to create a specific use-case that must be applied to individual devices.

Marvell's three IoT chips

Poulidis acknowledges that Marvell isn't the only company with a platform combined with MCU and wireless chips. But not everyone has all three wireless solutions, he saysWiFi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee. Further, Marvell is armed with "mature software" to offer a complete HomeKit solution, Poulidis notes, since the company has been already offering things like Apple's Wireless Accessary Configuration (WAC) support in its MCU to be paired with its own WiFi chip.

The MFi scheme would place no limits to the type of wireless connectivity necessary for each IoT device. Poulidis told us: "If it's a door lock, it probably makes sense to use Bluetooth Smart," because of its proximity use-case scenario. For a washing machineor any other appliance plugged into a wall socketadding WiFi enables each machine to communicate with cloud services through the home network, sending an alert if it breaks down. If light bulbs are set up as part of the network, ZigBee would be the choice of wireless technology.

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