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Launched at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in 2014, HomeKit is a platform for streamlining home automation, namely allowing users to turn their house or apartment into a "smart home." 

Under the system, users can connect compatible devices to their home network, which can then be managed from Apple devices, such as an iPhone or the Apple TV. Direct control over a device's functionality is offered through a single interface, rather than using separate third-party apps for each device, and commands can even be performed vocally through Siri. 

One key aspect is the ability for devices to trigger actions in others, using the HomeKit framework, such as motion detected by a camera could cause lights to turn on in other rooms in the house.

HomeKit also allows for multiple actions to occur on different devices simultaneously. An example of this could be a "movie night" trigger that closes blinds, dims the lights in a room, and turns on a popcorn maker through a HomeKit-compatible smart outlet. 

There are over 50 brands that are providing products that are compatible with HomeKit. Each device is reviewed and approved by Apple to help ensure compatibility and security for users. Apple CEO Tim Cook said during October 2016's quarterly and annual financial results conference call that there would be more than 100 HomeKit compatible products availableby the end of the year. 

In the February 2017 quarterly earnings call, Cook revealed the extent of his usage of HomeKit at home, describing how home automation fitted in with his home routine. On saying "Good Morning" to Siri, lights in the house turn on and the coffee starts brewing, while a "tap" of the iPhone on leaving home locks the doors, turns all lights off, and adjusts the thermostat to a lower temperature. 

 

 

Home App

One of the biggest changes Apple has made to improve the HomeKit experience is the introduction of the Home app. The Home app introduced with iOS 10 now allows users to securely control all HomeKit accessories from iOS devices. This means users can now connect to a variety of compatible home automation devices through one common iOS Home app, as opposed to a series of disconnected interfaces. Also, the addition of Siri control to HomeKit allows for complicated sequences of events to be induced from an iOS device or a Mac running Sierra.

It’s still relatively early in the game in terms of home automation accessories. Not all manufacturers will necessarily adhere to HomeKit standards, with competitors like Google and Samsung in the market with their own smart home protocols. In the future, users may have to choose not only the smartphone OS but also a smart home OS as well.

HomeKit works with iPhone, iPad and iPod running iOS 8.1 or later, as well as watchOS 2 for the Apple Watch, and the Apple TV third generation or later can also control accessories with Siri when users are away from home. Apple currently keeps an updated list of all of the approved HomeKit devices here.  

 

Getting Started

One of the key facets of HomeKit is that it is a relatively simple platform to set up compatible devices for use. This starts from when prospective users are shopping for gadgets to add to their smart home, with a “Works with Apple HomeKit” badge displayed on the packaging of devices with HomeKit support, or with HomeKit specifically mentioned in an online store's product listing.

Once acquired, the HomeKit setup process is generally the same for the majority of compatible hardware. In some cases, such as Honeywell thermostats or with Philips Hue, users may have to install the manufacturer's companion app before being able to use it as part of HomeKit.

To add most devices to HomeKit, users must open the Home app on an iPad or iPhone and then tap the plus symbol or the Add Accessory button. Once discovered, an option to “Add Accessory to Network” will appear, which requires users to “Allow” the accessory to proceed.

Users then need to add the eight-digit HomeKit code from a sticker on the device or the manual, either by typing manually or scanning it with the camera. After providing extra information about the item, such as a name and the room it resides within for Siri identification purposes, the last actions are to tap Next, and then Done..

 

 

Alarms & Sensors 

HomeKit-enabled alarms and sensors can advise the homeowner if certain actions are detected, like the opening of a door, motion, smoke, or the presence of carbon monoxide. Monitored 24/7, devices can raise an alert in the event of an emergency, with users also able to test the system from their iOS devices, and silence false alarms. 

Elgato Eve:

Door & Window Contact Sensor 1ED109901001 ($39.95)

Motion 

Room

Weather 

Fibaro:

Door and Window Sensor

Flood Sensor

Motion Sensor

First Alert Onelink:

GLOCO Environment Monitor GLOCO-500 ($79.97)

Wi-Fi Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm (10-Year Battery) ($104.24)

Wi-Fi Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Hardwired) ($106.75)

iHome Smart Sensor iSS50 ($77.78)

Netatmo Home Coach NHC01 ($99.61)

 

Hubs 

While many HomeKit devices interact with each other directly, some hardware requires an intermediary device in order to function. Hubs are a way for such hardware to communicate with a home's HomeKit setup, and vice versa, with the hub typically controlling all of a specific manufacturer's hardware or product line. For example, the Philips Hue Bridge is able to be used as a controller for other Philips Hue light bulbs throughout a home. 

Insteon Hub Pro 2243-222 ($149.99)

Lutron:

Smart Bridge L-BDG2-WH ($79.95)

Smart Bridge Pro L-BDGPRO2-WH ($110.00)

Nanoleaf Smarter Hub NL15-0001 ($99.99)

Philips Hue Bridge 458489 ($59.99)

 

Lights & Switches 

One of the major HomeKit device categories, lights and switches could be considered the easiest products acquire and use to get started in home automation. Switches can be used to turn on or dim the lights in a room or a group of rooms from an iOS device, or from a Siri command, with adapters for the light fixture providing a similar function. 
Smart light bulbs take this integration a step further, providing a variety of features from changing the brightness to motion detection, with the ability to group bulbs together to control them all at the same time. It is also possible to adjust the color of some bulbs, allowing home owners to quickly change the mood of a room at the touch of a button. 

Elgato Eve Light Switch 1EL104001000 ($49.95)

Fibaro Flood & Motion Sensors 

iDevices Socket

iLuv Rainbow8

Incipio CommandKit Smart Lightbulb Adapter CMNDKT-001-WHT ($39.95)

Koogeek Smart Socket 

Nanoleaf:

Aurora Lighting Smart Lighting Kit NL22-0001TW-9PK ($289.99)

Smart Ivy bulb 

Philips:

Hue White Extension Bulb A19 E26

Hue White Starter Kit A19 E26 929001136901 (2 bulbs, 1 hub) ($63.95)

Hue Ambiance White and Color Extension Bulb A19 E26 

Hue White Ambiance A19 Bulb 

Hue Lightstrip Plus Extension Set (3 ft./1m) 

Hue Ambience Downlight Bulb BR30 E26 

Hue HomeKit Upgrade Bridge (for Current HUE Bridge Users) 

Hue tap Switch

Hue Lightstrip Plus 

Hue Go  

Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit A19 E26 456210 (3 bulbs, 1 bridge) ($179.99)

Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit A19 929001199801 (2 bulbs, 1 bridge, 1 dimmer switch) ($115.00)

Lutron:

Smart Lighting Kit for Wall and Ceiling Lights P-BDG-PKG2P (189.95)

Smart Lighting Kit for Lamps P-BDG-PKG2W ($189.95)

iDevices Socket Wi-Fi Light Bulb Adaptor IDEV0002 ($59.95)

 

Locks 

Smart locks give owners the opportunity to secure their home without having to deal with a collection of keys. Typically these locks could be engaged as part of a morning routine, with owners locking all doors at once when heading off to work from their iOS device. Depending on the hardware, it is also possible to see who is ringing the door bell, using a live video feed of the doorstep streamed to an iPhone, and to optionally let authorized individuals in by remotely unlocking the door. 

August Smart Lock & Doorbell Cam ($228.89)

Chamberlain: 

MyQ Home Bridge (Coming in April)

Smart Garage Hub (Coming in July)

Kwikset Premis Touchscreen Smart Lock 

Latch M-Series Smart Lock

Schlage Smart Sense Deadbolt

Weiser Premis

Yale Assure Touchscreen Deadbolt 

Outlets

Smart outlets are a way to give "smart" functionality to a "dumb" non-networked device, and are one of the easiest ways to get started creating a connected home. Acting as a pass-through device that other appliances can plug into, the outlets can be used to turn a device on or off remotely or via a timer, such as a lamp or a heater. Some smart outlets can also be used to monitor the electricity usage of appliances, helping guide home owners save money on their energy bills.

ConnectSense Smart Outlet GC-CS-SO ($59.95)

Elgato Eve Energy Switch & Power Meter US 1EE104001001 ($49.95)

iHome Control Smart Plug iSP5 ($34.95), iSP6, iSP8 

iDevices:

Switch Connected Plug IDEV0001 ($41.74)

Outdoor Switch Connected Plug IDEV0004 ($73.99)

Outdoor Switch Essentials Kit IDEV0012 ($499.00)

Incipio CommandKit Smart Outlet with Metering CMNDKT-004-WHT ($36.35)

Koogeek Smart Plug P1 ($34.99)

Opro9 iU9 Smart Power Outlet

OPSO Smart Outlet HK-OU1

PureGear PureSwitch 

 

Thermostats, Heating & Fans 

Smart thermostats control the heat and air-conditioning of a smart home like a regular thermostat, but they are 'smart' in the act of allowing users to make those changes remotely via an internet-connected device. They can also remind users when to change an air filter, what the internal/external temps are at their home and even 'learn' when people are home or not and adjust the temps accordingly. For example, the ecobee 3 lite Smarter Thermostat adjusts temps based on the home's "unique energy profile" and the outside weather.  

Bryant Housewise Wi‑Fi Thermostat

Carrier COR thermostat 

De'Longhi MDH (Multi Dynamic Heater) MDH15WIFI-BK ($945.05)

ecobee3:

lite Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat EB-STAT3LT ($169.00)

Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat with Remote Sensor EB-STATe3-02 ($249.00)

Elgato Eve Thermo 

Haier D-Air Hanging Smart AC 15DGC23AU1

Honeywell Lyric:

T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat ($119.99)

T6 Wi-Fi Thermostat TH6220WF2006 ($192.26)

Lyric Thermostat RCH9310WF5003 ($199.87)

Hunter:

Apache Wi-Fi Ceiling Fan 

Signal Wi-Fi Ceiling Fan 

Symphony Wi-Fi Ceiling Fan 

iDevices Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat IDEV0005 ($94.95)

Netatmo Thermostat

 

Cameras

Network-connected cameras can be used both inside and outside a building, with uses ranging from securing the home to monitoring pets while at work. By taking advantage of HomeKit, live feeds and recordings can be streamed to iOS devices and the Apple TV, with notifications appearing if motion or sound is detected. In some cases, it is possible to set certain actions to trigger on other HomeKit devices on detection of events, such as turning on the lights when the home owner is out of the house. 

D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD

 

Upcoming HomeKit Devices

In January 2017, manufacturers used the Consumer Electronics Show to launch new HomeKit products that will be shipping later in the year. 

The Chamberlain Smart Garage Hub adds smartphone control to an existing garage door opener. According to Chamberlain, the hub should work with “virtually any brand of garage door opener.” Simply use Siri to open, close, or check the status of the garage, and also control its lights. It’s set to become available in July. 

In addition, Chamberlain also announced the MyQ Home Bridge, an accessory that adds HomeKit compatibility to existing MyQ-connected devices. That includes MyQ Garage (1st generation), any Chamberlain Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener, or any MyQ Enabled Garage Door Openers that use an internet gateway.

In a unique addition to Apple's HomeKit product lineup, Incipio announced a new four-outlet smart power extender called the Wireless Smart Power Strip, which will allow users to discretely control and power multiple appliances via one accessory. All four outlets can be controlled discretely through Siri, Apple's Home app, and third-party HomeKit applications.

iDevices debuted Instant Switch, a wall-mounted Bluetooth controller styled after traditional light switches. Once paired, it is able to remotely control iDevices' lineup of outlets, sockets, switches, dimmers and lighting products. Along with basic on/off capabilities, the switch integrates with smart home platforms including Apple's HomeKit, Android and Amazon's Alexa assistant for access to voice controls and macro profiles. 

Netatmo revealed the Smart Smoke Alarm that allows users to receive —and take action on —real-time alerts remotely on their smartphone. With support for Apple's HomeKit protocol, the device is even more useful, triggering preconfigured device scenes in the event of a fire, such as turning all lights in the home red. 

Shipping in March for an expected $75, Yale's HomeKit module will add support for Apple's smart home platform to its existing hardware, including the Real Living Assure Lock and NexTouch Wireless Lock models. 

The ConnectSense Bluetooth Extender is a Bluetooth-to-Wi-Fi bridge that solves the problem of remotely controlling a HomeKit device that communicates using Bluetooth Low Energy, but not Wi-Fi. 

Withings was planning to ship the Home Plus camera, a smart security camera capable of detecting the air quality of the room and providing baby monitoring facilities, in the first quarter of 2017. The camera will not be released, Withings customer support has confirmed, though it is unclear if it is due to ongoing patent-related legal wranglings between Apple and Withings parent company Nokia

 

Security

HomeKit can enforce end-to-end encryption between smart accessories and iOS devices, which can stop third parties from stealing personal info and hacking their way into communication devices or taking control of smart accessories.

A mirai-based DDoS attack in October highlighted the benefits of Apple’s secure HomeKit platform when it was discovered that it was in part enabled by a botnet targeting unprotected “Internet of Things” devices. For Apple, the revelation vindicates a controversial walled garden approach to IoT borne out through the HomeKit protocol.

Besides end-to-end encryption, HomeKit also features protected wireless chip standards, remote access obfuscation and other security measures designed to thwart hacks. The system uses iOS and iCloud infrastructure to securely synchronize data between host devices and accessories. Needless to say, it would be relatively difficult to turn a HomeKit MFi device into a DDoS zombie.

Apple also integrates privacy safeguards that ensure only verified users have access to accessory settings, as well as privacy measures that protect against transmission of user-identifying or home-identifying data.

While HomeKit is a well-planned and well-executed IoT communications backbone, the benefits of adopting the technology come at a cost to device producers.

One report from January 2017 claims Apple demands device manufacturers to buy specific chips to use the platform, at a cost of between 50 cents and $2, as well as requiring particular higher-cost Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips compared to those used in non-HomeKit equivalent hardware. 

Apple is also said to require HomeKit vendors to use only factories certified by Apple itself. It is claimed Apple has certified over 800 factories, though only a small number specialize in home automation technology, a requirement that prevents companies from using uncertified partners, and limits the ability to shop around for the best quotes. 

While the more stringent requirements may slow down the adoption of HomeKit by producers compared to other platforms, the security, functionality, and interoperability with other devices enforced by this process still makes HomeKit support an attractive proposition to device makers.  

 

iOS 10.2 expands smart home notifications

The release of iOS 10.2 gave users the ability to receive instant alerts for a variety of new connected device types in their home. The update adds support for notifications from a variety of HomeKit accessories, including window coverings, occupancy, motion, door and window detectors, smoke, carbon monoxide, and water leak sensors.

Notifications can be enabled or disabled through Apple's Home app where users can decide whether the accessory will send notifications every time a sensor is triggered. This can allow the user to receive alerts no matter where they are, such as if a HomeKit smoke detector or motion sensor were triggered.

The update also adds the ability for HomeKit accessories to send a notification to users when an update is available. This will make it easier for users to keep their devices running the latest firmware, without the need to manually check for updates via a third-party app.

 

The future

As mentioned previously, HomeKit has a great amount of potential. In the future, users could control almost every aspect of their home via their Apple TV from the comfort of their couch.

However, there’s still some hesitancy from manufacturers when it comes to bringing home automation devices on the market. There seems to be a sense of ‘wait and see’ when it comes to market maturation. Also, rivals like the Google-built Nest and the Samsung Smart Fridge may eventually become HomeKit-compatible thanks to a bridge device, but again, there are no guarantees.

Announced earlier in 2016, Apple is also working with various U.S. home builders to get HomeKit-ready technology installed in some homes from the start – selling homes with HomeKit-enabled devices already built in and can be incorporated into a mortgage instead of paying for installation and retrofitting later.

Some homebuilding partners include Lennar, Brookfield, and KB Home, with the latter already showing a HomeKit-enabled model home in Communications Hill, San Jose, California. In Europe, German firm WeberHaus has pledged support for the platform, and plans to start offering smart homes with HomeKit support later in 2017. 

 

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