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Apple demands specially-certified chips & factories for HomeKit devices, report says

One of the factors slowing down adoption of Apple's HomeKit platform is the company's demand that accessory makers not only buy specific chips, but have products manufactured at Apple-certified factories, a report said on Friday.

The chips required for a device to work with HomeKit cost between 50 cents and $2, though bulk buyers get discounts, developers told Reuters. Companies must also buy particular Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth chips said to cost more than alternatives.

Apple has a list of over 800 certified factories, only a few of them actually specialized in home automation technology, according to a leaked document. The selectiveness means that companies can't necessarily work with existing partners or get the best quotes.

Developers can ask Apple to certify additional factories, but this may be rejected. One startup told Reuters that it was considering HomeKit support for a temperature control device, but had its factory turned down despite it having 40,000 workers and counting popular "Star Wars" toys among its output.

"They're a huge company, a legitimate manufacturer that makes tech household brands. And yet they're not certified," the startup's founder said.

Finished product samples must be sent to Apple's home in Cupertino for compatibility testing, a process said to take three to five months — during which companies can't announce that they're seeking HomeKit approval. The process appears much more stringent than Apple's "Made for i" program, which attempts to insure quality accessories for iOS devices.

Reuters noted that there are only about 100 HomeKit devices on the market, versus some 250 certified for Amazon's Alexa platform. Amazon, though, only requires that companies submit special software code for review, or if they want a "Works With Alexa" label, get hardware tested via a third-party lab. Once a product has both certifications, Amazon promises to decide on "Works With Alexa" status in 10 days or less.

Apple's approach is said to offer some benefits, such as a greater chance of catching flaws, and lower latency, since Alexa is heavily cloud-based. It can also easier to configure HomeKit devices, as Alexa adds the step of having to find and install "skills" for accessories.

An Amazon spokeswoman admitted that her company can't guarantee the security of third-party hardware, something Apple does. Alexa does, however, offer extra security for some commands — like unlocking doors — in the form of things like voice PINs.