San Francisco: The first "smart" home gadgets that can be controlled by Apple's voice-activated digital assistant are going on sale this week, just days after rival tech giant Google announced it's building its own software for Internet-connected home appliances and other gadgets.
The new products could be an important step forward for the emerging industry of "smart" or "connected" homes, where appliances, thermostats and even door locks contain computer chips that communicate wirelessly.
While a number of companies are working on similar products, analysts say Apple could persuade more consumers to try them by making it easy to control different products from a familiar device, such as the iPhone.
Apple announced its "HomeKit" software project a year ago, but isn't making the new products. Instead, other companies have been working to make devices that meet Apple's criteria for compatibility and security.
Two manufacturers are now selling products and three more are accepting online "pre-orders" or plan to begin selling in coming weeks.
HomeKit-certified products hitting the market today include wireless hubs from two companies, Insteon and Lutron Electronics.
The hubs, about the size of a small home router or cable TV box, act as the central controller for lights and other gadgets. The hubs in turn can be managed with a smartphone app.