Wish List: 14 new HomeKit features we want to see from Apple
Compared to where it was only a couple years ago, HomeKit has progressed immensely. The number of supported accessories is growing exponentially, third-party apps are increasingly powerful, and Apple continues to add additional features and functionality. Now that WWDC is approaching, we wanted to think about how HomeKit could most improve.
WWDC 18, which is set for June 4 through June 8, is where Apple is widely expected to introduce iOS 12, watchOS 5, tvOS 12, and macOS 10.14. HomeKit, which is currently supported on three of those four platforms, will hopefully receive some major updates.
Here is our wishlist for what we would love to see this June.
Cameras have a clear place within HomeKit. Thus far, Apple has done a decent job of implementing them. Letting you get rich notifications when motion is detected, view them in the Home app, and use two-way communication. Really though, there is a lot more work that needs to be done.
Such as motion zones to crop out windows or other high-traffic areas. Individual manufacturer apps support this, but HomeKit does not.
One of the biggest absent features though, has to be support for recording.
When motion is detected, you receive a rich alert with an image of what set off the motion and the ability to tap into a live video stream. Unfortunately, that leaves you unable to go back and view the action that set off the motion.
Currently, the only workaround is to use the screen recording feature built into iOS. Apple really needs to add the ability to record whatever is happening in your home natively.
This would pair perfectly with iCloud. One could use their iCloud storage plan as a digital locker for all of the motion recordings, giving users another reason to subscribe to a higher capacity plan.
Additionally, since it is just in iCloud, there could be a lot of great third-party apps to help manage these recordings.
Video privacy mode
Another glaring omission to cameras is privacy mode.
Currently, if there is a HomeKit camera, anyone who was given access to the home in the Home app can see what is happening on the camera at any given time.
This concern is something we've heard so frequently that we made it the subject of the first installment in our HomeKit series.
HomeKit needs a way to disable the camera whenever you are home, or optionally just during the day.
The way we see it, the camera could "arm" itself whenever no one is home. When someone arrives, the camera could disable. During the night, the ones in common areas could once again optionally arm in "night mode" to keep an eye on unoccupied rooms of the home.
We mentioned this in our CarPlay wish list piece. It would be ideal to be able to control your car via HomeKit. Many cars are already controllable via native iOS apps and Amazon Alexa. Making the leap to HomeKit support would not be needlessly difficult.
There is theoretically a lot that could be done with vehicles. Aside from solely being able to turn them on/off, HomeKit could tie into the temperature sensors as well. An automation could be created for weekday mornings that starts the car and turns on the heat if the outdoor temperature is below 32. Siri could also be queried to lock or unlock the doors.
It goes without saying security would be a concern here, but it doesn't seem insurmountable as other security-crucial items like cameras and locks are already a part of HomeKit.
Among the accessory types we'd like to see added to HomeKit, appliances are high on the list.
We want to be able to receive notifications when the laundry or washer is done. The ability to pre-heat the oven for dinner. Even countertop appliances like toaster ovens or sous vide machines would be handy.
Use Siri to set the temperature on your oven machine, then be notified when it is at temperature. (While we are dreaming, how about a Bluetooth HomeKit temperature probe to see when your food has reached medium-rare?)
Competing smart home platforms have similar functionality, it should just be a matter of time before Apple is on-board.
We don't put this in 100 percent the same category as appliances, but the effect is the same.
There have been many smart pet feeders that have come to market, and it could be great to have Siri and HomeKit support built in. Can't make it home in time? Feed remotely. Schedule feedings and food amount through scenes and schedules.
PetNet.io has been one of the best ones out there, and they are able to do all these activities through Alexa.
Amazon has just added music support to scenes for Alexa, and we expect Apple to do the same.
We may receive this sooner than we expect when AirPlay 2 launches. In its current beta form, AirPlay 2 adds speakers to HomeKit and the Home app, but you can't integrate them into scenes.
We could see this with the final version of iOS 11.4, or maybe later with iOS 12.
If implemented, Siri could trigger a morning scene with some upbeat music to start the day while turning on your lights at the same time (maybe even starting the car).
For timers, we aren't referring to the fact HomePod is only capable of setting one timer at a time, which Apple also needs to correct.
In iOS 11, Apple added the ability to set a timer on a scene. When a scene is triggered, it can revert itself within a specific time period.
We want to be able to do something similar but through Siri.
"Siri, turn on the patio lights for 10 minutes" would be handy. Maybe at night when you go to bed; "Siri, turn the ceiling fan on for an hour".
Even though Siri has made her way to the Mac, HomeKit support has not. It seems like such an odd omission and another way Siri has become fragmented between platforms.
Any HomeKit accessory should be able to be controlled from your Mac, the same way it can be controlled from your phone, tablet, speaker, or TV.
Rumor has it, Apple is getting close to releasing this functionality.
Quicker accessory support
Accessory manufacturers have been steadily adding HomeKit support and releasing new products. That doesn't mean there isn't plenty of work to do.
Many manufacturers that once pledged support have taken a significant amount of time to add support. Belkin took years before releasing the WeMo bridge.
Canary and Ring both announced support years ago, and while they still pledge support is forthcoming, nothing has come to fruition. Both manufacturers and Apple need to work together to make these things happen quicker.
Implementing an intercom system would be a very intriguing ability, especially if built into HomeKit speakers or cameras. Cameras already have two-way audio capabilities, why not tap into that as an intercom system? Siri could be a great way to access the capability. "Siri, turn on the intercom in the kitchen".
Remote support would also be available. We've actually used cameras like this in our own lives. Just last week, my significant other sent me out to the store for a few supplies. While I was out, I needed some clarification. I called her, and she didn't answer. Luckily, we have a few HomeKit cameras. I was able to open the camera in the kitchen, start the two-way audio, and ask her via my makeshift intercom. If this was a real feature, I wouldn't have had to open the video at the same time, but could use it solely as an intercom.
HomePod would be a natural home for this feature as well, especially if a lower cost option was made available.
Making an IR blaster work within HomeKit would require a bit more effort than others on the list. It could be quite a bit tedious to make happen.
Anything that works via IR (or even RF) could be controlled from the Home app. Ceiling fans, TVs, even stereo systems and speakers.
If Apple were to opt to do something along these lines, most of the setup work would probably be relegated to third-party apps for setup. Such as the Logitech Harmony remote. The remote could be configured in the Harmony app, then certain commands could be available in the Home app and through Siri. Such as turning on the TV or turning off the ceiling fan.
Notifications are extremely important, and thus far they don't seem to have gotten their fair shake in HomeKit. If HomeKit one day wants to be able to act as a sort of security system, notifications need to be more flushed out.
Notifications should be able to be configured if a door isn't closed, or perhaps the temperature in the nursery is too high/low. There are many situations that notifications could be enabled for.
Granular home sharing
Currently in HomeKit, when you share access to your home with another user, they have carte blanche access to everything.
We could very much see the benefit of having different levels of home access. Perhaps limiting it based on time of day (for nannies), or just allowing certain controls like the lights, but not cameras or the AC (perhaps for a cleaning service).
This could also be useful when renting/leasing a home. Guests could have temporary access that gets disabled after the set period.
To go along with more granular home sharing, usage logs.
The ability to see who unlocked a door is something seen in third-party apps but is lacking in HomeKit.
If you couldn't infer from our very specific list of HomeKit requests, we are very frequent users of HomeKit. It has shown great promise as the platform has matured, but Apple needs to keep pushing to make it the best platform out there.
It already has its work cut out for it with such stringent requirements required to produce HomeKit hardware, especially when compared to more open platforms such as SmartThings.
The new, more accessible, software authentication policy has shown that Apple is willing to make some concessions to help the platform grow.
Now that our suggestions are out of the way, what do you want to see from HomeKit this year at WWDC? Let us know in the comments.