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Meet George Jetson: Apple preps iPhone 'big play'

Apple is readying a new software platform that would turn the iPhone into a remote control for lights, security systems and other household appliances, as part of a move into the "Internet of things."

Apple plans to take on rivals Google and Samsung and make a "big play" in the world of smart home technology at its Worldwide Developer Conference on June 2 in San Francisco, according to people familiar with the matter.

This will reinforce the view, held by some in Silicon Valley, that "Jetsons"-style home automation is the next frontier in technology as growth in smartphone sales begins to slow in developed markets.

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Apple's coming move follows Google's $3.2 billion acquisition in January of Nest Labs, makers of Internet-connected thermostats and smoke alarms, and Samsung's recent debut of its Smart Home range of refrigerators, washing machines and TVs that can be controlled from its smartphones and watches.

Apple's integrated system will make it easier to set up and control new "smart home" devices. For example, a home's lights might automatically come on when the owner enters the house, using their iPhone to wirelessly signal their arrival. Such a system was outlined in an Apple patent filing, published in November last year.

The connected-home system will give Apple customers more reasons to buy several devices in its iOS family, by using the iPhone or iPad in conjunction with its Apple TV box, an upgraded version of which is expected to be released later this year, to control other domestic devices.

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Apple has been talking to a select group of other device makers whose smart home products will be certified to work with its forthcoming new system and then be sold in its retail stores.

The scheme will be similar to Apple's existing "Made for iPhone" label, given to compatible headphones, speakers and other accessories, but with a new brand and logo. Apple may also provide additional checks and assurances that certified products are not vulnerable to hackers.

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