Apple Homekit wants to streamline home automation.
In other words: it wants to make it easier for smart accessories to communicate, and for you to connect and manage all the smart accessories in your home from various manufacturers (Philips Hue lights, for instance, or Wink lights, as well as other speakers, thermostats, detectors, plugs, blinds, locks, sensors, etc). HomeKit is Apple’s framework for home automation.
Manufacturers can implement it into their smart accessories. It was first announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2014. The name is a combination of “home” for home automation and “kit” for software developer kit (SDK). HomeKit-enabled accessories are secure, easy to control (commanded by a single interface: Siri), and work with Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
The idea is you’ll use a HomeKit-compatible app to set up your home and all the rooms with accessories, and then you’ll set up actions and triggers to control those accessories. If you’d like to know more about HomeKit, Pocket-lint has explained everything you need to know below.
What’s the point of HomeKit?
So, you’re probably wondering to yourself: I’ve longed own smart lights and controlled them with their own easy-to-use iOS app – why is HomeKit necessary now? Well, imagine that you also own smart blinds.
Without HomeKit, your smart lights can’t communicate with your smart blinds, meaning you can’t hook them up together, control them with a single interface, nor set them to perform actions together at certain times. (Like, make your lights automatically to turn off and window blinds simultaneously close at 9 pm EST every night.) Instead, you must manually control each accessory with their individual, third-party apps and set every one to do a specific task at a certain time. That’s all rather tedious, to be honest.
HomeKit-enabled smart accessories however can speak to each other, and best of all, you can control them using voice commands through Siri. You can use Siri on your iPhone/iPad by saying things like “turn on the lights in the living room” – or even “good morning” to unleash a bunch of commands that’ll cause many smart accessories to turn on and do their thing (maybe your coffee will start brewing while your blinds open).
Every HomeKit-enabled accessory automatically works with Siri once you set it up via its HomeKit-compatible app. Siri is just the unified interface you use to issue voice commands to those smart accessories. You still need the individual apps that come with those smart accessories to gain full access to touch controls and whatnot. So, it’s not completely streamlined just yet.
Now, the last thing you need to know about HomeKit is that it can enforce end-to-end encryption between all smart accessories and iOS devices. That means third parties can’t steal your data, hack their way into your communications, or take control of your home automation.
Is it available yet?
Yep. Manufacturers can add support for it now, then get approved by Apple, and their devices will work with Siri after pairing. We’re just waiting on more HomeKit-enabled accessories to hit store shelves.
Which Apple devices work with HomeKit?
HomeKit works with any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running run iOS 8.1 or later. Also, with watchOS 2, you can now control all your HomeKit accessories with the Apple Watch (more on that later). And if you have an Apple TV (third generation or later), you can control your accessories with Siri commands when you’re away from home (more on that later).
Is there a HomeKit or Home app?
To set up smart accessories, Apple is letting you use the third-party apps that come with those smart accessories (for now, anyway). Once everything is set up within a HomeKit-compatible app, you will be able to control the HomeKit-enabled accessory with Siri (no Apple HomeKit app required). Simples. That said, there is a HomeKit section under Privacy in Settings. It’s a place for you to see which apps have requested access to your home data. We expect a more full-fledged HomeKit menu to appear in Settings in the future, along with management options.
Which smart accessories are out now?
Any manufacturer in the world that wants to develop HomeKit-enabled accessories has to not only add support for HomeKit into their devices and companion apps but also join Apple’s Made for iPhone (MFI) certification program and submit its plans, prototypes, etc.
Apple will check the application programming interfaces (APIs), then ensure the third-party app meets the App Store’s requirements, and finally, approve or deny the accessory for production. Apple provides MFI logos on any certified device’s packaging, which tells you the accessory is an official MFI-certified product. These products are secure and compatible with iPhone and iPad.
When Apple showed off HomeKit in 2014, it announced its partnerships with many manufacturers, including as iHome, Haier, Withings, Philips, iDevices, Belkin, Honeywell, and Kwikset. The first batch of HomeKit-enabled, MFI-certified accessories include:
- Elgato: Elgato and it’s Eve sensors went on sale in the Apple Online Store in July 2015. The first four sensors are the Eve Room (£69.95), Eve Weather (£44.95), Eve Door & Window (£34.95), and Eve Energy (£44.95). Additional Eve products are coming. The Eve app is now out as a free download from the App Store.
- Ecobee: Ecobee in the US is offering an intelligent thermostat. It launched in June 2015 and costs $249 (£163).
- Lutron: If you’re looking to control your lights Lutron will be releasing the Caseta Wireless system that allows you to bark orders like “lights off”. The Caséta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit, with HomeKit-enabled Smart Bridge, is available for $229.95 at Apple Stores. The kit includes one Caséta Wireless Smart Bridge, two Caséta Wireless dimmers (compatible with dimmable LED, halogen, and incandescent bulbs), two remotes and two pedestals. To add more lights, you can purchase the Caséta Wireless dimmer/remote kits, also available at Apple Stores, for $59.95.
- iHome: The iHome iSP5 Smartplug fits into your standard wall sockets and will mean you can turn off connected devices via Siri.
- Insteon: The Insteon Hub will let you control a whole manner of things like cameras, switches, sensors and more either via an app, Siri, or schedules like configuring a single device to turn on and off at dusk and dawn or create customized groups of devices that turn on and off at various times throughout the day.
Enabled accessories are marked with a “Works with Apple HomeKit” badge on their product packaging and have only been available since June 2015. If you previously owned one of the above-listed products, they won’t work with HomeKit going forward. You need to buy the new versions. But there is a workaround for old smart accessories: you could get the Insteon Hub oriHome SmartPlug and use the HomeKit support within those device to leverage Siri and control anything connected to them, such as Phillips Hue lights.
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