Apple 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 Amazon.com have dominated, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The company is seeking engineers to work in its Cupertino, Calif., 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 effort is headed by Andreas Gal, the former Mozilla chief technology officer who joined Apple last year when his company Silk Labs was acquired by the iPhone maker. Gal is leading the software side of the team reporting to Arun Mathias, a lieutenant to software chief Craig Federighi, who oversees wireless software engineering. Silk Labs developed an artificial intelligence-based platform for linking together internet-connected devices.
Apple has posted 15 job listings on its website since last month for engineers to work on the company’s platform, called HomeKit, smart-home devices and related software and has shared other listings on third-party job boards. The company has also been privately recruiting potential candidates from the internet-connected devices industry. Apple already has hired several new engineers and managers this year from Amazon, Qualcomm and other companies. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment about the company’s plans.
Gaining a foothold in the smart-home market is critical for Apple as it looks for new offerings beyond the iPhone and seeks ways to keep people buying its products and services.
Apple offers a Siri-connected platform that connects smart-home devices to Apple products. Amazon and Google opened up their Alexa and Google Assistant to third-party products. The Siri voice assistant is only available on Apple devices, but it can control third-party products via HomeKit.