Apple opens the door to smarter homes with HomeKit
With more than 800 million devices worldwide using Apple iOS operating system, the company launched a new software system for connected home accessories.
At its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple unveiled HomeKit, a software protocol aimed at connecting home accessories via iPhones and iPads.
Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, introduced HomeKit as part of the launch of the software development kit for iOS 8, the latest version of the Apple mobile software system due out later this year.
In a press release, Apple said that HomeKit lets your home accessories connect seamlessly to better manage your home. HomeKit delivers a common protocol, secure pairing and the ability to easily control individual or groups of devices throughout the house including integration with Siri®. For example, you can tell Siri you are “going to bed” and it could dim the lights, lock your doors, close the garage door and set the thermostat.
Product and service manufacturers will incorporate the functionality into devices aimed at consumers. For instance, Philips Lighting’s HUE lighting system already operates via an iPhone ap. But the new system allow for deeper integration.
“We are excited to be part of the next step in making home automation a reality, in a safe and integrated way,” said Eric Rondolat, CEO, Philips Lighting. “HomeKit will allow us to further enhance the Philips Hue lighting experience by making it simpler to securely pair devices throughout the house and control them using Siri.”
At the introduction, Federighi said Apple worked with a number of manufacturers, including Cree and Haier, to create the system. Among the supported devices are smart locks, lights, cameras, doors, plugs, switches, and thermostats.
The system also includes Secure Pairing to enhance security. Secure Pairing ensures that only the registered iOS device can activate connected items like locks, and is designed for quick set up.
HomeKit also allows users to group devices into scenes or control devices individually by naming rooms or tasks. A number of lights in a living room could be grouped together to create a relaxing mood, for instance, while others could be turned on while working.
Also, HomeKit integrates with the Siri personal digital assistant. Users can tell Siri to turn on the lights in the living room or open the garage door, Federighi noted.
According to PC Magazine, Apple is hoping to bridge the gap between devices that don’t communicate, and reduce the complexity of set up and operation.
The first step towards this rational approach is the ability to use your iPhone as a controller for all of your connected devices, which would negate the need for an additional hub. While the iPhone already serves as a controller for a number of connected devices via apps, it sounds like HomeKit will happen on the OS level. That means you'll simply be able to tell Siri to turn off the lights.
And rather than needing to cycle through multiple apps to control every connected device you own, you'll be able to group devices, so when you're ready to go to bed, HomeKit will make sure the door is locked, the lights are off, and the air conditioner is set to low (if that's what you've programmed it to do). That's the type of simple control that will make the benefits of home automation appealing to a wider audience.
While some questions remain: What about Android devices? What about devices that are not WiFi enabled? Will some devices still require a hub for data collection and monitoring? PC Magazine sees the development as a positive one for making smart home devices easier to manage.
Still, HomeKit looks like a step in the right direction. If Apple can use the iPhone as a tool to simply unite and control multiple connected devices, it could be just the push the home automation industry really needs to break through to the mainstream
Read more about smart and connected homes.