What is the Apple Home Kit and what does it mean for the smart home?
It means a whole lot, if you’re an iOS user. Here are the details you need to know.
HomeKit: Smart Home in a Box
HomeKit is Apple’s answer to the smart home revolution. It is not a single device in itself, but rather a platform that is designed specifically for developers to use when creating their own home automation products. As a result, HomeKit has a lot of potential in the future as more and more developers start using it, but it takes investment by other players to really work.
HomeKit offers two primary advantages: Integration and voice commands. Integration refers to the ability to control all your Internet of Things devices via a single platform, a major advantage when many brands are coming out with their own smart home solutions. HomeKit sweeps them all into the same space and lets you use them with the same toolset. There will probably also be abilities to program them all into various “scenes” and responses to specific factors, but we haven’t seen much of this yet, probably because HomeKit is still a developing service.
Voice command capabilities include the ability to issue commands to Siri on your iOS devices and have those commands transition into home automation control and scenes. In other words, you’ll be able to lock your door, change your thermostat and so on by telling Siri to do it, just like that house of the future we’ve always been promised.
What Apple Home Kit Means for Your Home
Let’s dig a little deeper: The HomeKit protocol wants to simplify the smart home by tying everything into Apple devices. Needless to say, if you don’t have an iOS device in the house, HomeKit doesn’t mean much to you, and HomeKit compatibility won’t be an important feature to look for. If you do use Apple products, then HomeKit-certified products will be much easier to use without switching devices or even apps.
As smart home devices keep on coming to automate every level of your house, one of the problems is that they tend to all require different apps or, in the case of more complex systems, hub control devices. HomeKit tries to do away with all that by offering many devices under (preferably) the HomeKit app and using an iOS device as a hub via wireless or Bluetooth connections (more on this later).
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to run every device through the same app. If you only want, say, a smart door look, or a home thermostat control, you can download separate developers apps for your iOS devices. They’ll still use HomeKit and its various integration benefits if necessary, but they have dedicated apps to use solo if you prefer.
When will Apple Home Kit come out for consumers? Well, since HomeKit is more of an ongoing project in the development community, there’s no single product that you need — instead, you just need the right apps for devices you already have, like your iPhone or iPad. We are looking at a series of releases and updates from a variety of device makers, all related to HomeKit.
This will happen in two different ways. First, manufacturers can announce compatibility with HomeKit guidelines for devices that already exist. These are smart home and home automation products that are already out: Companies have built bridge accessories that allow these devices to work through iOS devices via the HomeKit protocol. This only works on specific transport protocols like ZigBee or Z-Wave, and requires a developer willing to coming out with bridging updates to bring new compatibility to old devices.
Second, developers can announce brand new products that are coming with HomeKit compatibility, as already seen. These products should work right out of the box with HomeKit, but its difficult to predict when they will come out. The best bet is to watch for release announcements, and look for HomeKit integration on any products that you buy.
Development and Compatibility
The list of companies working with Apple on this home automation project continues to grow, and includes Philips, Chamberlain, Kwickset, Withings, Cree, iHome (of course), Haier, Sylvania, Honeywell, Netatmo, and more.
A list of all current and upcoming compatible devices would also take time to describe, but suffice it to say there are plenty.
- Philips Hue lights work with HomeKit almost right out of the box.
- iDevices has several dedicated devices made for HomeKit including Switch and a smart plug. Elgato has come out with compatible door and window sensors.
- Insteon is planning a new HomeKit app.
- Most recently General Electric announces that its new line of bulbs would work with HomeKit as well.
Other companies will surely announce their own plans as release dates draw nearer, so keep an eye on your favored smart home solutions for a HomeKit announcement!
Photo Credit: Yutaka Tsutano