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What is HomeKit? HomeKit is Home automation
Apple developed the HomeKit framework to simplify the current state of home automation.
HomeKit is a framework in iOS, watchOS and tvOS for communicating with and controlling connected accessories in a user’s home. You can enable users to discover HomeKit accessories in their home and configure them, or you can create actions to control those devices. Users can group actions together and trigger them using Siri.
Imagine having a house chock-full of smart devices (like a light bulb or smoke alarm) from multiple manufacturers (like Honeywell or GE), but they can actually understand each other and work together.
What’s more – you can tell these smart devices what to do using Siri. That’s home automation. HomeKit is basically all about making your home automation experience more consumer-friendly.
How does HomeKit work?
When you’re at home on your Wi‐Fi network, and you tell Siri to do something (ex. “Turn off my lights”), the message is sent over your Wi‐Fi network to your HomeKit accessories.
If you are away from home and you tell Siri to do something, the message is sent via the Internet to an Apple TV® device in your home, which then sends the message over your Wi‐Fi network to your HomeKit accessory. If the HomeKit accessory uses Wi‐Fi or Bluetooth as their RF communication, the message gets sent directly to the device.
HomeKit requires iCloud. Make sure that you are logged in to iCloud and have iCloud Keychain and iCloud Drive enabled.
If the HomeKit accessory products use something other than Wi‐Fi for RF communication, like Lutron Clear Connect, ZigBee, or Z‐Wave, the message gets sent to the products gateway (or bridge) device,ex. the Lutron Smart Bridge or Smart Bridge Pro or Philips hue Bridge 2, which then sends the message to the devices (ex. hue bulbs or Caséta wireless dimmers).
What is a HomeKit accessory?
A HomeKit accessory is a product that has a special “chip” built into it. The “chip” is called an MFi coprocessor. MFi stands for Made For iPhone/iPod/iPad. Accessories can come in 3 forms. They can be a manufacture’s:
- Product with a built in Wi‐Fi Radio
- Product with a built in Bluetooth Radio
- System bridge (like Lutron’s generation 2 Smart Bridge or Pihilips hue Bridge 2)
How do I know if a product is a HomeKit accessory?
A product is a HomeKit accessory if it has been licensed by Apple as a HomeKit compatible product. Any product that is compatible with HomeKit will have a “Works with Apple HomeKit” mark on the packaging, and on a label on the product itself.
Example of “Works with Apple HomeKit” logo on packaging:
If you already invested in Home Automation accessories, which are not compatible with HomeKit, you can use HomeKit bridges to make them compatible. There is an open source project you might find useful: Homebridge.
Those of you who are tech-savvy could conceivably have hundreds of names in HomeKit for all your rooms, devices, and functions. To make it easier for you to control multiple things at once, Apple has included a grouping feature in HomeKit.
Grouping allows you to, for instance, turn off all the lights in your house with a single spoken command. That means you won’t have to ask Siri to shut off every light in every room in every house you own, one by one. Grouping also includes sub-features called Action Sets or Scenes, so you can control more than just multiples of a single type of device.
Imagine you’ve assigned a scene called “It’s bedtime”, and various devices and actions are connected to that scene (such as locking your doors, turning off the lights, and setting your alarm clock). When you tell Siri “It’s bedtime”, HomeKit’s grouping feature will alert your doors, lights, and clock to do their respective tasks (in no particular order).
According to Apple, HomeKit features privacy and security layers. It also maintains privacy and prevents smart devices from being misused. More specifically, HomeKit includes end-to-end encryption between iOS devices and smart devices.
What is a “bridged” accessory?
HomeKit can work with non-HomeKit devices that use competing protocols, such as ZigBee or Z-Wave.
Those home automation products might be able to connect to HomeKit using a hardware “bridge” of some sort. A bridged accessory would connect iOS devices to non-HomeKit devices and therefore allow those devices to be controlled by HomeKit’s Siri commands.
A bridge can do this by communicating with iOS devices using the HomeKit protocol, and then communicating with non-HomeKit devices using rival protocols.
When you’re not at home, you can still access your accessories using your Apple TV and iPad running iOS 10. Open the pre-installed Home app and go to the Home Settings. There you find the Home hubs for a specifc home.
Read more about remote access.