Why I'm not Buying an Apple Smoke Detector

If Apple makes a smoke detector, I'm not buying it. Considering the bag of hurt HomeKit is, I'm just not ready to trust a life or death-level product to Apple regardless of how awesome my Mac, iPhone, and iPad may be.

An Apple smoke detector alert system? No thanksAn Apple smoke detector alert system? No thanks

I've declared my anti-Apple smoke detector stance because earlier today the U.S. Patent Office published the company's patent (thanks, Patently Apple) describing a system where networked devices can detect smoke from fires. The concept is great: It lets various electronic devices, which presumably will include our Macs, iOS devices, and Apple TVs, to monitor the air around us. Since it's likely there will be more of those than smoke detectors in our homes, they could give us earlier alerts to fires compared to smoke detectors alone.

Earlier smoke detection sounds awesome, especially since seconds can mean the difference between surviving a house fire and becoming a tragic victim. According to Apple's patent, our devices could automatically call the fire department and relay information such as our address, and where in the home smoke has been detected.

I'm still loving the idea, but I just can't get excited. The problem for me is that Apple can't put together a system that's reliable enough to make me confident it turn my lights on when I want. If saying, "Hey Siri, set the scene to watching TV," dim the living room and turn off my office lights, how can I trust an iSmoke Detector to accurately detect a fire and alert me, let alone reliably call the fire department?

As it stands today, HomeKit doesn't turn lights on or off when it should—at least not consistently—often tells me it can't connect to my Hue lights and Lutron Caseta smart switches, and no longer works outside of my local network no matter what I do.

Compared to detecting fires and calling for emergency help, turning lights on and reporting room temperatures sounds like a walk in the park. Apple's inability to give us true reliability with HomeKit doesn't bode well for home gear that's supposed to alert us when there's a fire.

To be fair, the park Apple is currently walking in is a pretty rough place. Designing a platform where devices from multiple vendors all talks together and operates in concert is no easy task. Apple created its HomeKit platform so we can use lights, air sensors, thermostats, door locks, and more through a unified interface regardless of which company makes the gear we use. Apple also included strict security requirements in HomeKit so we don't need to worry about hackers taking over our homes remotely, which is another great feature because I don't need script-kiddies hacking my Hue lights at 3AM and turning my living room into an in-home version of a sleazy disco.

Apple is working to improve HomeKit, and I'd like to think it's going to improve. I also like to think Apple would have better success with its own smoke alarm system since it would be an in-house project where every element is under the company's control.

Still, I'm not ready to buy into Apple smoke detectors. At least, not until Siri can consistently turn off my lights when I go to bed.