Home Automation

Introducing Apple HomeKit

Introducing Apple HomeKit

It was over a year ago that Apple introduced the idea of HomeKit and earlier still that people were speculating about what (if any) moves Apple might make in the smarthome space. When Apple announced HomeKit, it left us with more questions than answers. Now we know a bit more.

HomeKit is a framework for managing and controlling connected devices in your home—things like smart thermostats, connected bulbs, smart locks, and more (which Apple calls “accessories”). This framework is baked into iOS 8 and later and offers a means for manufacturers to allow their products to work together. It also gives your i-devices control of these accessories through device manufacturers’ own apps or even through Siri.

After lots of news, speculation, and misunderstanding, the first wave of HomeKit-ready products is finally hitting the market. Similar to Apple’s Made for iPhone program, devices compatible with HomeKit will all wear a “Works with Apple HomeKit” Works with HomeKit seallogo on their packaging. What’s important to note is that many of the HomeKit products we’ll see rolling out are products that are already on shelves today, but only those devices wearing the spiffy new Works with Apple HomeKit badge will, indeed, work with HomeKit. So if you’re buying one of these products, and you want it to work with other HomeKit devices, make sure it has that logo!

These are the first available devices:

Caséta Wireless Home BridgeCaséta Wireless Smart Bridge. Lutron’s Caséta Wireless product line has been around for over a year now, but now they’re distributing an updated version of the Smart Bridge and Smart Bridge Pro hubs that work with HomeKit. This bridge allows Lutron’s Caséta plug-in modules and wall switches to work with other HomeKit accessories. Lutron’s likely the first to get HomeKit products into consumers hands with a starter kit now available at Apple Stores for just under $230.
Insteon Hub Pro and Insteon+Insteon Hub Pro. Insteon purports to now be shipping a HomeKit-compatible version of its hub, the Insteon Hub Pro, accompanied by a new application for iOS called Insteon+. Insteon is a long-standing ecosystem of smarthome products, and this new hub allow a selection of their current products to be used with HomeKit. Insteon’s app is restricted in functionality and compatibility to devices supported by HomeKit, so while this might be a great entry point for some, long-time users of Insteon products may find this new hub limiting.
ecobee3_alt1ecobee3. Ecobee’s ecobee3 smart thermostat has been enormously popular since its release last fall. Starting on July 7, you’ll be able to buy an updated version of the ecobee3 wearing the aforementioned HomeKit badge at the same price as before: $249. Shortly thereafter, Ecobee will be replacing stock in other retailer locations with the newer version.
Eve Weather sensor
Elgato surprised everyone last fall when they announced a line of connected home devices, including lighting and sensors. Elgato’s line of Eve sensors is HomeKit compatible, and they are available for pre-order from just under $40 to $80.
SmartPlugSmartPlug. iHome is a name most commonly associated with alarm clocks and wireless speakers, but they’re one of the first manufacturers to offer a HomeKit-compatible plug module. This pass-through plug will allow you to turn lamps, fans, and appliances on and off through iHome Control and other HomeKit apps. This product is available for pre-order as of June 15.
HomeKit apps allow you to organize your smarthome accessories into homes, zones, and rooms, and each company’s app can use the same information. So if you can set up a “lamp,” for example, and specify that it’s in your “bedroom.” Then Siri and any other HomeKit app that can control lighting will recognize that as your “bedroom lamp.” To date, both the Caséta Wireless and Insteon+ apps allow you to set and use these home definitions.

Many more HomeKit accessories are expected over the coming months. Lots of companies discussed products they were making for use with HomeKit, and GE recently made a big splash with little information about their plans to enter the space. Additionally, Philips just announced that all Philips hue lights will work with HomeKit sometime this fall. Thought they’re not specifying how this will work, we expect that you’ll need to swap out your hub with an updated version at an additional cost.

With the small amount of information Apple has shared publicly about HomeKit and this sudden launch of new products, there’s a good deal of consumer confusion—even in the press covering the space. One thing is certain: there’s still a lot to learn about HomeKit. We’ll continue to watch the market as manufacturers introduce new products and report about some of them here. And for ongoing coverage of the smarthome space, check out The Digital Media Zone’s podcast, Home: On, covering the latest in home automation and control for DIY consumers and enthusiasts.


About the author

Richard Gunther

Richard is a product experience consultant with a life-long interest in consumer electronics. He has been immersed in smart home tech for decades now and hosts The DMZ's home automation podcast, Home: On and co-hosts Entertainment 2.0 with Josh Pollard. Richard looks at products through an experience lens, always seeking the right mix of utility and delight.