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Apple iBeacon filing suggests steps towards Apple smart home future

Last year Apple announced its smart iBeacon location-aware platform, but it has taken until now for the first Apple hardware to appear, as part of an FCC filing. 

The Apple iBeacon filing uncovered by Apple Insider details a circular sensor that looks like a smoke alarm, and it currently goes by the codename A1573.

The box uses Bluetooth 4.0 to connect with iOS devices, support for iBeacon having been added to the system back in last year’s iOS 7.

While this is the first Apple hardware seen to use iBeacon, the iBeacon platform is already alive and well. Apple uses it in its retail stores, but does so with Qualcomm Gimbal devices, not its own. 

At present we do not know whether Apple intends to release this hardware to normal people, rather than companies, but it could mark Apple’s most serious moves into the connected home space. 

Apple’s arch rival Google has already made this move, when it bought Nest in January 2014 for $3.2 billion. Nest produces smart thermostats and smart smoke alarms, and both are already available in the UK. 

However, this iBeacon FCC filing does not necessarily mean we’re on the eve of the launch of Apple’s smart home future. The FCC is a US organisation through which any devices with wireless communications intended for sale in the US must pass. 

It suggests this iBeacon device exists, but little more. 

Apple has already done some of the groundwork needed to make connected home devices work with your iPhone or iPad, though. 

In June it announced HomeKit as part of iOS 8. It’s a platform designed to connect with third-party smart home systems through a ‘middle man’ bridge. 

It seems likely that one of these iBeacons could function as such a bridge. If these hubs are not merely intended for Apple’s stores, we may hear more about the HomeKit future when the iPhone 6 launches – potentially this September. 

Next, read our iOS 8 vs iOS 7 comparison

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