Apple Reportedly Expanding HomeKit Team to Better Compete With Google, Amazon

Apple is reportedly increasing its hiring of smart-home engineers in a bid to catch up with rivals.

According to a new report from Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, Apple has ramped up its hiring efforts in Cupertino and San Diego as the company looks to revamp its smart home platform:

Apple Inc. is ramping up hiring for a team that is working on new smart-home software and devices in an effort to catch up in a field where Google and Inc. have dominated, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The company is seeking engineers to work in its Cupertino, California, headquarters and in San Diego as part of a group revamping Apple’s smart-home platform. The overhaul is designed to spur more outside accessory and appliance makers to connect smart-home products such as lights and garage doors with the iPhone and Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant, Siri. The team also is exploring the possibility of building new home devices beyond the HomePod speaker.

The team is headed up by Andreas Gal, formerly of Mozilla and owner of AI startup Silk Labs. It’s also reported that Apple has previously explored a “wide range” of smart home accessories including modules that can open and close windows, cabinets, and doors, but that these have been put on hold.

With the overhaul, Apple is looking to expand its smart home platform to more devices like lights, garage doors, and more. To grow its reach, the team is also exploring options to build new home devices other than just the HomePod, explains the report.

HomeKit is Apple’s software framework for controlling and managing smart home appliances. It was first introduced with iOS 8 back in September of 2014, but the adoption of the technology has been very slow. There have been some signs of life, such as the backfill of HomeKit support into Vizio TV models dating back to 2016, with a software update, but it’s been a trickle compared to the torrent of Apple competitors.

While support for the API is baked into the software that powers Apple devices, the number of devices outside the Apple brand which support it are tiny compared to its competitors. Apple only counts a few hundred HomeKit-compatible devices — many of which it lists for sale on its own web site — while Amazon counts more than 80,000 Alexa-compatible devices and Google says its Google Home platform works with more than 10,000.