Apple plans big move into ‘smart home’ technology by Geoffrey Smith @FortuneMagazine May 27, 2014, 9:38 AM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons FORTUNE – Apple AAPL is close to unveiling a new software platform that would turn its current devices, such as iPads and iPhones, into consoles controlling pretty much all of the electronic systems and appliances in your house, the Financial Times reported Tuesday. The newspaper said Apple intends to make a “big play” in the world of smart home technology at its Worldwide Developer Conference next week in San Francisco, although it warned that the company has been known to change its mind at the last minute about the conference. The FT framed the initiative as a response to moves by competitors Google GOOG and Samsung, which have also recently made moves to develop the so-called Internet of Things, using new technology to connect and automate more and more of the actions and processes of daily life. Google bought Nest Labs, which makes Internet-connected thermostats and smoke alarms, in January this year, while Samsung is expanding “smart home” technology to its latest range of domestic appliances. MORE: Where does the DirecTV deal leave DISH Networks? Whereas Samsung already makes many of the devices most likely to be developed for smart home technology, such as refrigerators and washing machines, Apple is talking to device makers about certifying their products to work with its new system, the FT said. According to the Gartner research group, there will be nearly 26 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things by 2020 — more than three for every man, woman, and child on the planet. The FT said Apple’s new offering would make it easier to set up and control smart home devices, and bolster its efforts to grow at a time when the traditional market for its smartphone and tablet devices is maturing.