iHome Sweet iHome? Apple Said To Target 'Smart Home' Features For Next iPhone Update

Your new iPhone could be more than just your gaming, texting, and photo-taking machine; it just might become your house keys. A new report says that Apple is planning on rolling out home automation features in the next version of iOS, turning the iPhone into the center of a "smart home."

In Apple's case, it would almost inevitably be called the iHome, because why stop a good thing if you don't have to. Apple has reportedly been working on technology to allow the iPhone and iPad to control home appliances for some time, and the latest news out of The Financial Times says that Apple's offering is finally ready. Apple is reportedly set to unveil "iHome" software features next month at its Worldwide Developer Conference. That's the yearly conference where Apple shows off the newest features in iOS, the operating system that powers iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

The Times' report has Apple in secret talks with a number of device manufacturers to produce a suite of smart home products that will work with iPhones, iPads, and other Apple devices. Those manufacturers will offer iPhone- and iPad-compatible appliances for sale in Apple retail stores once the system is rolled out.

Nest Smoke Detector and Thermostat
Google-owned Nest Labs already produces iPhone- and iPad-compatible thermostats and smoke detectors.

In practice, the "iHome" system could see a home's lights turning on when a user enters a room, or the thermostat automatically adjusting itself when a user's iPhone is out of range for a certain amount of time. Also, a home security system could automatically activate itself when a user leaves for work.

In entering the home automation arena, Apple would be pushing into territory currently occupied by Samsung and Google, its two biggest rivals in the mobile sector. Samsung has a top-selling iPhone competitor, but it also sells smart washing machines, televisions, and more, while one of Google's many recent acquisitions was a $3.2 billion grab for Nest Labs, which made iPhone- and iPad-compatible thermostats and smoke alarms.

Apple has apparently been looking to make this move for a while now, as patent filings unearthed by Apple Insider confirm. The filings show the iPhone as the central element of a web of connected devices. Users could even have their iPhones set to build "custom 'scenes' that involve specific settings for devices like home lights, speakers, a television set, and more."

As with just about everything it releases, Apple is not going to comment on the matter before it shows it off on stage for the first time. Fortunately for technology lovers, we won't have too long to wait. Apple will be showing off the next generation of iPhone software in about a week, when WWDC kicks off in Cupertino, California.