Companies are starting to pick sides in the home automation race, and Sony (NYSE:SNE) just made its choice. The company announced at the IFA conference in Berlin this week that it is joining Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) AllSeen Alliance, a coalition of tech and consumer companies utilizing Qualcomm's open-source AllJoyn home automation platform.
Sony's move means there's yet another company pushing an alternative home automation platform to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) forthcoming HomeKit.
The brewing home automation storm
Qualcomm has collected an impressive group of peers for its home automation platform, including Microsoft, LG, Panasonic, Haier, Sharp, and about 60 other companies. And while Sony's move won't derail Apple's HomeKit plans, the growing number of companies joining the AllJoyn proves just how heated this competition is becoming.
AllJoyn -- like many other open-source home automation platforms -- enables third-party devices to easily connect to each other, communicate with other devices, and pair together for combined automation.
Apple's HomeKit, which is scheduled to officially launch with iOS 8 next week, allows third-party devices to connect to each other as well, and uses the iPhone and iPad to control them with Siri voice commands. But because Apple's platform is iOS-exclusive, the company is on its own in the space, while tech and consumer competitors are teaming up.
Just last month, Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) purchased the home automation company, SmartThings, which has its own home automation devices and software platform. Samsung's purchase plants it firmly in the smart home sector and gives the company the opportunity to take on Apple head-on. In addition to its purchase, the South Korean mobile juggernaut is also is part of the Open Interconnect Consortium to create standards for home automation.
As if that weren't enough, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) threw its hat into the ring earlier this year via the $3 billion purchase of Nest Labs, which makes smart thermostats and smoke detectors and has its own Works with Nest home automation platform.
Why all the competition?
The home automation market is estimated to be worth $16.4 billion by 2019. But with so many alliances and platforms available there's no clear winner-takes-all right now, and whoever inches ahead will do so because of simple software and a huge network of developers.
Choosing a home automation winner
For home automation to become big part of consumers' everyday lives, it needs to work in the background, without a lot of technical know-how. Tech companies know this, and most of the systems make setting up and pairing home automation devices easy. But these systems also rely heavily on developers to create apps for each platform.
A prime example of this is Mercedes-Benz building an in-car app that integrates with Google's Nest, to automatically adjust the temperature in a driver's home when her or she drives away or returns to the house.
No company is more successful than Apple in convincing developers to create apps. And because its iPhone and iPad are so prevalent, Apple's rivals have to create platforms that are iOS-compatible. This means that Google-owned Nest works with Apple products, and Samsung's SmartThings will continue to work with iOS as well.
As Apple begins pushing its home automation platform next week -- along with its new iPhones and possibly a wearable device -- its competitors are forced to develop apps and services that will play nicely with them. That's why I think Apple has a serious advantage in home automation, despite the increasing land grab in the space.
Over the next year we should start to see who becomes the leader in home automation, or if the new trend takes off at all. But considering Apple's brand loyalty and the fact that developers for other platforms have to make their connections Apple-friendly, it appears the company may be in the best position of all at the moment.
Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), Microsoft, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.