Much as Google and Yahoo rode search to billion-dollar empires, the firms that bring order to the “Internet” of your home are poised to revolutionize how we live—and make a fortune in the process. Here’s a look at where the major players stand
THE TECH TITANS
Apple’s HomeKit tech–which will debut this fall in iOS 8–will wrangle other companies’ smart gadgets: say “bedtime” to Siri on your iPhone, for example, and it might dim your Philips Hue lightbulb. But the company isn’t saying whether it’s creating its own smart-home app.
The 122-year-old conglomerate partnered with startup Quirky to crowdsource ideas for connected gadgets, like a tray that pings your phone when you’re out of eggs. Now Quirky plans to turn the software it created for such products into an ambitious operating system for the digital home.
It’s followed up its $3.2 billion purchase of Nest–the smart-gadget company founded by Tony Fadell, a.k.a. the “Godfather of the iPod” (see page 54)–by acquiring Dropcam, maker of a slick web-enabled security camera. But the ad giant’s biggest hurdle might be persuading consumers to trust it with the sensitive personal data such devices collect.
The company could evolve its Xbox One console into a smart-home base station with a software update. So far, though, its biggest move has been partnering with Insteon, which provides home-automation services and apps for Windows and Windows Phone.
The $400 Xbox One may soon help automate your house
THE TELECOM MASTERS
AT&T’s principal competitor currently discontinued its do-it-yourself security-and-automation service in February. But it’s got millions of customers to tap, and it probably won’t stay out of the category forever.
AT&T Digital Home–a service that lets you monitor your security, energy use and more from an app on your phone–is available in most U.S. markets. But the à la carte prices ($5 to $40 a month) add up fast.
The cable behemoth already bundles security services with TV channels for one fee; now it is rolling out Xfinity Home, a suite of home-automation services that can be controlled with a tablet remote.
For $100, SmartThings offers a wi-fi-enabled hub that allows you to connect products from a range of companies–including Quirky, Jawbone and Honeywell–and control them with a single app. (It also sells sensors that can be placed on dumb devices to make them smart.) The system is well priced, but SmartThings will need to be intrepid to thrive as Apple and Google invade its turf.
The $100 SmartThings hub works with gadgets from GE, Belkin and more
Its one-hub-to-control-them-all gimmick is similar to SmartThings’, and it has a retail partnership with Home Depot. But because Revolv hasn’t finished developing its open platform, the system is less customizable than SmartThings’. Its hub is also more expensive ($300 vs. SmartThings’ $100), and the company is still working on an Android app.
The $300 Revolv hub can sense when you’re home
THE WILD CARDS
ADT and Vivint are giving away ambitious home-automation systems with touchscreen control panels as an incentive to sign up for long-term contracts. But those fee-based models may not hold up.
LG, Samsung, Whirlpool and others are adding connectivity to their appliances–letting you perform feats like preheating the oven from your phone. But it’s unclear if they can dominate other aspects of smart-home control.
Lowe’s, the DIY retailer, offers Iris, a system that lets you control security cameras, light switches, locks and other devices. Office superstore Staples’ Connect is similar. But they’ll have to compete with the well-known tech brands.
This appears in the July 07, 2014 issue of TIME.