If you have done much reading about home automation or smart home accessories, the chances are that you’ve heard about HomeKit, the smart home platform from Apple.
As the owner of a KNX home, perhaps it has left you wondering what possibilities are offered by HomeKit, or the other smart home platforms. How do these compare to the reliability and security of a KNX home, and how can you add these possibilities to your current system without needing to use a whole different app or interface?
HomeKit is definitely the best choice of smart home platform for adding to a KNX home, should you choose to do so. It has the highest level of security and data privacy, and comes with the ease-of-use and stability you can expect from Apple.
HomeKit offers an ever-increasing range of new smart home functionalities that are in constant development, with more automation options available every year. This gives you entirely new ways to use existing smart devices and accessories.
HomeKit has a rigorous certification system, so all the functionalities, apps and products that have the official HomeKit certification will work perfectly without causing system instabilities or security holes.
KNX home owners are already familiar with the full range of smart devices available for a KNX home, including sensors, garden sprinklers, security cameras, and doors (to name a few). So the question is, what do you have to gain from bridging your KNX system to HomeKit using a Thinka?
When you have a Thinka, you can use HomeKit to easily manage KNX automations in a way that would not be possible otherwise. Even more so, you can easily define new automations yourself without installers assistance.
KNX devices operate using a different protocol, but the Thinka is able to bridge the gap between your KNX devices and HomeKit, so you can make full use of all the HomeKit smart home functionalities and features with your KNX devices too. This opens up all of the possibilities of HomeKit for your KNX home, including features like geofencing, adaptive lighting, voice control/home assistant, and much more.
A side benefit is that you can also securely add devices from the HomeKit ecosystem to your KNX smart home. HomeKit users love the flexibility and easy ‘plug-and-play’ installation of these, and now these can be easily integrated to your KNX home, allowing you to control all of them with a single app.
With a Thinka, your KNX system can now be controlled securely using the Apple Home app, which is standard available on all your Apple devices. So you can use the same app to control all your KNX devices as well as HomeKit accessories
Let’s explore what new functionalities you can bring to your KNX home with HomeKit, and see just how easy it is to set these up.
Just what can HomeKit do? Ask a HomeKit user and they’ll probably say “everything!”, but that doesn’t tell us anything specific really, does it? The truth is, HomeKit cannot do everything, but it makes things so easy that it can seem that way.
Adding new automations is easy using the Home app, as it uses an intuitive interface which enables the user to set up various scenes, group together automations and add new accessories to your system. You can also use Siri to create automations or directly control devices with voice commands.
HomeKit offers a range of seriously useful functionalities, like face recognition, geofencing, and adaptive lighting. These add a whole new dimension of depth of service to your smart home – and these become available for your KNX home too, when you use a Thinka to bridge it to HomeKit.
We have 5 top tips, to show you how you can make the most out of HomeKit with your KNX home this summer:
A big part of being able to enjoy a vacation comes from being able to actually relax.
That means that you don’t want to be worrying about whether you remembered to lock all the doors, close all the windows, or activate the security system before you left the house for the airport!
Using HomeKit’s Geofencing feature, you can have a variety of automations set up based on your location. So when you leave the house, the gates can close automatically behind you, the doors and windows can be secured, lighting turned off (or on), and the security system activated. This way you know that every time you leave home it will be secure and set up the way you want.
HomeKit’s Geofencing feature is probably the number one functionality that really adds value to a smart home, and being able to add this feature to a KNX home has to be one of the best reasons to bridge your KNX to HomeKit.
Adaptive lighting is one of the most recent features to be added to the HomeKit platform, and although the choice is limited now, a wider range of new Adaptive Lighting products and accessories is starting to become available. Many lighting features can already be controlled and automated with HomeKit.
The big difference with Adaptive Lighting is the possibility of automating lighting level and color temperature (or color) of the lighting, based on the time of day. In practice, this means you can be woken up in the morning with a gently increasing light level, or unwind easily in the evening with warmer light that has less of the blue wavelengths that disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep patterns.
You can also set it up so that at night, the lights will only be at a certain brightness and color if you turn them on. This works perfectly with DALI lighting solutions for example, however there are a lot of options for this. The Nanoleaf lightstrip, for example, can be customized with Adaptive Lighting. Alternatively, you can use a smart bulb like the Philips Hue Ambiance to enjoy customized lighting using your regular light fittings. All these options are HomeKit certified accessories that can be added to your KNX home and be controlled together with your KNX devices via the Apple Home App.
This means you can enjoy a nice evening indoors or outdoors, and the lights will automatically come on at just the right level – without needing to interrupt the flow of conversation (or wine).
There are lots of reasons why people choose smart home products, but one of the biggest markets is for home security products, especially cameras. IP cameras make it incredibly easy to add security or doorbell camera functionality to a smart home, and HomeKit can use advanced features like face recognition and event recognition to activate automations. These devices have been extra-useful during the COVID period too, as they enable homeowners to communicate with delivery drivers and easily ‘screen’ visitors at the door.
During the summertime, you can easily check who is at the door (so you decide if it’s worth getting out of the pool or getting dressed), or you can keep an eye on your home while on vacation - giving you total peace of mind.
There has been a lot of concern about adding cameras to a smart home however, especially because of the security and privacy risk if these are breached. Thankfully, HomeKit has developed a robust and secure system called HomeKit Secure Video.
HomeKit Secure Video effectively ring-fences your video feed, and stores it securely on your iCloud storage account (without counting towards your storage limit). It can be viewed (by selected people) for up to 10 days.
Your Home Hub can also automatically detect what is going on, and send video directly to the lock screen on your iPhone when certain activity has been detected. It could be a car pulling up in your driveway, someone creeping around in the garden, or someone ringing the doorbell – even a specific person arriving at the property (using face recognition).
This feature means you can relax on the beach in Trinidad, knowing that you don’t need to check your home cameras unless defined activity is detected.
HomeKit’s Secure Video is super-secure (hence the name), but it also means you are limited to using HomeKit-certified IP cameras, and any cameras already installed as a part of your KNX system cannot be bridged to HomeKit. It might seem a pain, but this high standard of security is ultimately one of the many reasons why HomeKit is such a great smart home platform.
There are lots of smart garden products that can help automate things in the garden, but only Gardena currently makes a good range of stable products that are also HomeKit compatible. The Gardena smart system includes the full range of smart garden products, including irrigation control (mains and pumped), and smart sensors that can be used to automate irrigation based on need.
There are also smart mowers available in the Gardena range, but these do not natively work with HomeKit. Although there is a ‘workaround’ using Homebridge, it may be better (and more secure) to use the Husqvarna automower, which can be controlled with an Apple watch or iPhone, or wait just a little while until a HomeKit-ready mower is available.
Using an automated watering system will ease your mind when on vacation, but it will take the pressure off for the rest of the year too, so you can spend more time enjoying your garden knowing that it will be properly watered.
These systems can be great for saving water too if you set up the automations properly; using sensors you can ensure plants receive water only when they actually need it, or you can use a timed setting. Gardena’s smart irrigation system is capable of controlling up to six different zones, using a separate valve for each. If you need more you can use the smart pump (with a reservoir), which is self-priming, protected against running dry, and is fully weather-proof .
There are also some great products from other manufacturers too, like the water regulator from Eve, however Gardena currently offers the most options in a single range.
New: Thinka now supports Valve in beta
An awesome tip for your vacation! You can consider so many automations that will make your home look occupied while you are away. Curtains and blinds can be opened and closed, lights turned on and off, and even the TV or music can be activated at various times to give the impression that someone’s still at home.
While your intruder alarm might scare off a burglar when they break in, using HomeKit’s many options you can actually help prevent a break-in from occurring in the first place, because it will look like you’re still at home.
This peace of mind will make it much easier to relax and enjoy vacation time!
All these different automations you or your family members/colleagues, can easily set up by yourself, with the automations HomeKit has to offer.
What are your favourite ways to use HomeKit in your home? It’s amazing how many possibilities there are when you combine all the different options - let us know what you have come up with!
For our brazilian customers, we updated our Thinka for KNX Alexa skill. We now support Brazilian (portuguese).
KNX is a professional smart building system, however it has also found a place in top-end smart homes. The owners of KNX homes are often entrepreneurs who understand how cost control is a major underpinning of financial success. These are people who spend their lives creating and developing business concepts from the ground up. Well-versed in the day-to-day functions of running companies, they know that you need to keep cost levels to the minimum. Smart energy savings are more attainable with a smart home, in combination with energy monitoring.
It has been demonstrated that using KNX can bring down energy bills considerably - by 60% in some cases.
This can be a huge saving on household finances for smart homes, but the total energy savings are naturally even bigger when KNX is used in larger-scale settings such as offices and commercial buildings.
The intelligent automated control of buildings is one of the most significant ways you can positively impact energy efficiency. Saving energy is a big concern and certainly one of the biggest advantages of building and home automation.
Buildings account for a surprising 40% of total energy consumption. Being able to target efficiencies in buildings takes a big step toward reducing carbon emissions and saving our planet.
Although not a single building, the city of Salzburg, Austria has taken their responsibility very seriously and has installed a KNX system to control street lighting throughout the city. Using KNX-powered smart controls, the city has reduced energy consumption by 2.5%, and saves 750 tons of CO2 annually. That is what we call smart lighting!
Saving energy means switching the light off when you don’t need it. Simple but rarely achieved in practice both in the home as well as in buildings with larger numbers of people coming and going.
Significant savings can be made while ensuring optimal lighting is provided for all employees. This is achieved with automated switching and dimming of lights, based on pre-set ‘timed’ schedules or using sensors that can detect the presence of employees and determine the actual light level.
With Thinka, HomeKit bridge for KNX, you do not even need presence sensors anymore, your iPhone is the trigger that ensures the light to automatically turn on once you enter a room, by setting Geofences. Add Adaptive Lighting to the equation and you are totally set!
Geofence automations ensure that lights will automatically switch off in empty rooms, and turn on when someone enters. With Adaptive Lighting the lighting level is automatically adjusted to the natural daylight levels and time of day. Savings from lighting can reach 60%, using an intelligently programmed KNX system in combination with Thinka, HomeKit for KNX.
This can be one of the biggest chunks of energy consumption, but also one of the easiest to bring under control. Newer, more efficient smart climate control designs means that these systems are already much more energy-efficient than they used to be.
The use of heat-pumps, heat storage, and integrated cooling systems is a big advantage over older technologies, but the biggest savings can be attained with automated controls. This is especially true when utilising individual room control, because energy is not wasted on those rooms that are not in use.
The use of smart climate control ensures that all the systems are running at the right times, and in a way that is aligned with a common goal. You can also see the results using energy monitoring systems, which can also help you to target areas for improvement.
Almost all the energy on Earth comes from the sun, and this is keenly felt for anyone working in a glass-clad office. One of the most effective methods of cooling is the reflectance of solar heat using shutters and blinds. These can make a substantial contribution to energy savings and cooling costs by automatically shutting out heat from the sun at certain times of day, or based on sensors that detect light levels. By setting shutters and blinds to lower during the night, heat loss is also minimised, which adds more saving.
And, of course, ventilation and HVAC systems can all be fine-tuned to capitalise on seasonal variations and working patterns, using pre-programmed routines and sensor-based functions.
Savings of 50% on heating/cooling costs can be seen when individual room control is added to KNX buildings. The best way of adding efficiency is to ensure that the system is demand-based, with a well-programmed timed routine that runs heating and cooling systems only when the office is in use.
Using presence sensors or geofences via HomeKit can also help ensure that pre-programmed scenarios are in keeping with the actual demand. Thermostats can be set to variable values in different rooms, and times of day ensuring that the optimal level of comfort is achieved while saving money and energy. Thermostats and other sensors can be used to trigger ventilation or heating events based on pre-set scenarios, and matching the preferences of individual workers.
Zilverline is an Amsterdam-based tech company, specialised in developing apps and software. The company has 20 employees, and is situated in a stylish office in the trendy Eastern Docklands of Amsterdam, right on the waterfront.
It has everything you could want from an office space; a loft, high ceilings, table tennis, comfy seats, and a professional espresso machine.
Zilverline uses Thinka to bridge Homekit to their KNX system, which provides possibilities for easily-customised automations using the Apple Home app. The company installed Thinka 3 years ago, and this enables all 20 employees to access the office control systems via a centrally-located iPad, or with their own iPhones. Zilverline saves significantly on their energy bill, using automated functions controlled with KNX using Apple’s HomeKit. In fact, the office has benefited from energy savings worth over 30% - achieved just by using smart efficient controls on their lights, blinds, thermostat AND espresso machine!
“A bunch of tech-geeks like us can’t simply install and use HomeKit for KNX - we of course needed to check upon the promised energy savings”, reflects Bas van der Hoek, partner at Zilverline. “We are not easily impressed by technology; however the savings we have been able to establish are beyond our expectations”. Zilverline had expected to save money by better and automated control of light and thermostat, as this is where most of the published data about savings is focused. They had already saved costs by moving from TL-lighting to LED-lighting, and saved another 30% on lighting costs, by using HomeKit automations on top of their KNX system via Thinka.
Bas further explained exactly how Zilverline expected to gain energy savings by using smart automation: “As all employees have the visualisation of the automated office on their iPhone and we defined the automation ‘last man leaving the office’, which means that when the last employee leaves the office, the lights automatically will switch off, the blinds will close and the thermostat will be adapted. By doing so we saved around 30% on our energy bill, which we expected to happen”. However, what they did not expect was the energy savings on the professional Espresso machine. This vital piece of equipment was practically a part of the furniture – it was only when all the energy consumption patterns became fully visible that the employees were able to take control by setting up smart automations. Once this was done, both the unexpected and expected savings started immediately.
Reducing energy consumption without energy monitoring is a difficult task. With Thinka situated on the KNX-bus, Thinka is able to gather energy consumption data of individual KNX devices that support energy measurement. The next step is to have this information visualised.
The Apple Home app is not capable of showing energy consumption, however there are several other HomeKit Apps that do just that.
For Energy Monitoring, Thinka works with Eve Energy. Eve is a certified HomeKit app with a good energy monitoring interface. Eve cannot understand KNX, but that is not necessary, as Thinka unlocked Eve Energy for KNX. Thinka shares the gathered data with HomeKit, and accompanies this data with a tag. The data and the tag can be read by Eve. Eve then translates the data into an energy monitoring visualisation complete with graphs.
In this way you can view power consumption, and, by configuring Eve with the cost per kWh, you are able to monitor the cost per KNX product too.
Enabling key users (employees) to access and control the automation settings within their department can further contribute to the overall energy efficiency of the smart office or home. Although KNX installations are usually accessed through a single interface in a central location, multiple users can be given control privileges using their own iPhone via Thinka, HomeKit for KNX.
Thinka has unlocked the Eve Energy App for monitoring the energy consumption of your KNX system. The Eve Energy App visualises the energy consumption and costs of your KNX devices individually
Of course, KNX smart buildings already have an energy-saving advantage, however this can be optimised with fine-tuned controls. Using a Thinka, energy monitoring and energy savings become much easier to achieve.
We always feel honoured with great testimonials and reviews.
It gives energy and strengthens us in our believe our design principles are the right ones. We let others do what they know best and focus on our core: building the connection between KNX and Apple HomeKit.
Damian Sulewski, a long time German KNX-expert, writes about his experiences with Thinka in his blog. And we are humbled by his experience;
"I'm excited. So excited that as a die-hard Android user, I will get an Apple TV to play with the HomeKit automations. Then geofencing and adaptive light will also work. Furthermore, I will definitely try EVE and see how it can be combined with Thinka to have energy monitoring. So look forward to more articles on the topic.
Installation is child's play and operation via the Apple Home app is quick and easy. A tip: If you tap the home button on the iPhone three times, you can activate "Guided Access". Then the home app remains switched on permanently. This means I have direct access to all the functions of my house while working, next to my keyboard.
I also like the way the makers behind Thinka approach the matter. There is no Thinka visualisation app. Apple can do that much better. There is no separate logic language to enable automation, Apple can do that better too. What is there is a bridge between KNX and Apple that is quick and easy to set up, works fast and reliable and otherwise stays in the background."
Voice assistants are becoming increasingly useful in our hectic world. Also known as Digital Assistants, Virtual Assistants, and various similar names, the use of voice assistants has now become widespread. It is estimated that 128 million people in the US used a voice assistant during 2020 - that’s about 38% of the US population.
From their clunky, almost comical beginnings, these smart tools have been refined into modern, intelligent assistants who can carry out numerous tasks. They can now adapt to understand our language (and accent), anticipate the kind of requests we make, and recommend things that are relevant to us. With just a few spoken words, calls can be placed, and emails can be sent and reminders set. Of course, voice assistants can be used for many different purposes, but they really come into their own when used to control the smart home. After a simple setup process, a voice assistant becomes a home assistant - always ready to help and waiting for your voice command.
While KNX is the most stable and secure smart home system you could hope for, it does not come with a ‘native’ voice assistant. However, this functionality can be added by bridging your KNX home to one of the other smart home platforms (Homekit, Nest or Amazon) with a Thinka KNX bridge, and using the appropriate voice assistant for that platform. This then gives you a wide selection of different home assistants to choose from.
There are lots of things to think of when choosing which platform and home assistant is right for you, including data privacy, cost, security, system stability, and functionalities - so we’re going to look at the big three voice assistants and see how they compare when used as smart home assistants. Of course, this also means we will look closely at the smart home platforms that the assistants work with - because they essentially come as a package.
For Apple users, it is hard to believe that there is any other voice assistant than Siri, but there are other options too, and you might be surprised at how they compare!
Google Assistant is a powerful voice assistant that can be used to control the Google Nest home automation ecosystem, and a number of other integrations too.
Google is everywhere and has been for years. The formation of Google’s home automation brand has taken some time, and the development has unfolded as the result of several acquisitions made by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. It isn’t necessary to go over the Game of Thrones-like backstory, but it is worth noting that some unsuccessful products have been in the mix. Now, however, Alphabet’s comprehensive suite of home automation products has all been brought under the Google Nest branding and are all controllable using Google Assistant.
‘Hey Google’ brings you instant access to news, plays you music, gets your shower warm, organises your bedtime routine, and brings connectivity with all the devices in the Google Nest family. Google assistant is available on more than 1 billion devices, including smart speakers, cars, TVs and watches. It is integrated with other google products like Chromecast, and Nest but also third-party products like those from iDevices.
Google Assistant supports a total of 44 languages on smartphones, but currently just 13 languages for Nest (previously Google Home). These are: Danish, Dutch, English (6 dialects), French (2 dialects), German (2 dialects), Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Spanish (3 dialects), and Swedish. You can use three languages simultaneously.
A wide range of affordable hubs and smart speakers all help to make smart home automation easy and accessible for most budgets. Google uses its ubiquitous cloud processing to manage data and voice requests, customise experiences, and store settings. You can expect all the Google products to work well together, so you can expect smooth operation of Nest products using Google Assistant. A major advantage of the platform is the number of modular options available from third-party manufacturers, but this can also make it harder to guarantee system stability and security. Be aware that the cloud-based infrastructure of Google Assistant means personalisation data and other information about you (and your home) is stored on external servers, but it also has powerful processing capabilities.
Your KNX system can also be controlled by Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. Alexa has been around for some time now, and has increased functionality over the years as new skills, apps, and devices have become available. Originally debuting with the Echo speakers in 2014, Alexa has been consistently updated, ungraded, and nurtured. It is actually a very well-designed product that is also under constant development and improvement.
One of the big features for a lot of people is the novelty of using celebrity voices for Alexa. Who wouldn’t want Samuel L Jackson telling them they look wonderful, or informing them about what is on the agenda today? Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is the operating core of this service, and it works ‘in the cloud’, in a similar way to Google’s Assistant. This makes Alexa quite powerful and versatile, but also means there is some unclarity over data privacy.
‘Um, Alexa, are you listening?’ You can be sure it is! Alexa can help with all kinds of things, but has been developed with your smart home in mind. There are many compatible devices and accessories that can be added and controlled by Alexa. These are made by various third-parties and are often relatively affordable. This includes all the lights and power sockets you would expect up to your vacuum cleaner!
There are also plenty of fun accessories too, so you can talk to your pet and give it treats from hundreds of miles away, or turn on the sprinklers at just the right moment (while watching through your ring doorbell camera). The sheer volume of different devices and accessories that can work with Amazon’s system (and be controlled using Alexa) is one of the biggest draws, but a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so if security is a concern you should be very selective - or choose a different voice assistant (and smart home platform). Alexa supports 8 Languages: English (4 dialects), Spanish (3 dialects), French (2 dialects), German, Italian, Hindi, Japanese, and Portuguese (Brazilian). You can use two languages simultaneously, with mixed results.
Siri is the familiar voice assistant, found on Apple iPhones, and iPads, that can be used to control Apple HomeKit too.
HomeKit has taken a different development path to both its major competitors, opting for a ‘slow and steady wins the race’ kind of approach. HomeKit has relied a lot less on the development of cheap, generic, ‘compatible’ products by smaller companies. Instead, it has leaned further into ensuring the core design philosophy is maintained throughout the HomeKit ecosystem. This means the system works together seamlessly, and with a level of security that is unparalleled. Apple has worked hard to maintain this. Every device that is certified by Apple contains either an MFi (Made For iPhone/iPad/etc.) authentication chip or a secure software equivalent, and this can only be obtained by working closely with Apple’s technicians through all stages of the design and development phase.
For this reason, there are fewer devices that work with HomeKit, but they do work perfectly. Another advantage of this is that Apple has maintained control over system security. The high security level of HomeKit makes it the ideal pairing with a KNX system, which is also secure by design. With a KNX home bridge (like Thinka) you can use the power of Siri as a voice assistant to control all the features in your smart home
‘Hey Siri, play some jazz in the kitchen, and dim the lights downstairs.’ There may be more limited options, but there is no limit to the functionality of HomeKit, no matter what your plans are. Of course, you pay for the quality and conscious design of HomeKit’s approved accessories, but there is nothing missing in terms of capability. You basically just miss out on cheap, unstable knock-offs.
Siri fully supports 21 Languages: Arabic, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch (plus dialects), Finnish, English (plus dialects), French (plus dialects), German (plus dialects), Hebrew, Italian (plus dialects), Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mandarin (plus dialects), Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish (plus dialects), Swedish, Thai, and Turkish. Siri is not yet bilingual, but that will come in time.
The main advantage of Siri as a smart home assistant is that most of the processing occurs within the hub itself - not in the cloud - meaning very little data about you or your home leaves the building. Siri is just as powerful and capable as the other voice assistants (maybe more so), but comes with this added reassurance of stability and security. If privacy is a concern, Siri is the superior choice.
Choosing the right voice assistant for your smart home can be tough. Most of us prefer to keep using the same system we already have, so if you already use Alexa for playing music it is easier to simply extend the functionality to the rest of your smart home by adding ‘skills’ to its repertoire. But this may not be the right choice for you if security and data privacy are a big concern.
Your budget may be an important consideration too, and the Google and Amazon smart home products are cheaper than Apple’s. If you have a smaller home and are not bothered by the data security aspect, either of these budget options are totally fine, and both Google Assistant and Alexa are powerful smart home assistants.
Each voice assistant can support a limited number of languages, but Siri is in the lead on this front. As the most popular voice assistant, Siri has a serious advantage by being able to further develop its abilities from experience. It is also better at giving accurate responses to requests. Google and Amazon are continuing to push the development of more language support - and both Google Assistant and Alexa have bilingual capabilities, but these are far from perfect. It is important to be aware that the voice assistant comes with the smart home platform it is designed for, so the pro’s and con’s of the platform should be a part of the equation. The advantage of a KNX system is the built-in security and privacy that comes with a professional hard-wired system. It would be a pity to lose this advantage by bridging to a platform with weak data privacy protections. Because Siri works primarily within the hub, your data stays very safe, so it is a natural choice if bridging to a KNX smart home.
Whichever voice assistant (and platform) you choose, the Thinka KNX bridge is capable of integrating with each of these platforms, as well as combinations of the platforms, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
Security should be a top priority in home automation, certainly when allowing for remote access! Thinka provides secure remote access for KNX with an integrated KNX IP Gateway.
Your smart home needs to be convenient, versatile, and reliable. It also needs to be secure.
Yes, this means maintaining the security of your actual home and devices, but also your data privacy. A number of high-profile security breaches in the smart-home and IoT (Internet of Things) sphere in recent years have made security one of the top ‘must-haves’ for any smart automated home.
In one terrifying example, researchers at Ben-Gurion University revealed that it was possible to easily hack a small smart home accessory (like a light bulb) and, using this, were able to turn off the security alarm for a home. They were able to do this by making the system think the owner was home, just by accessing the lightbulb and toggling the bulb settings to ‘at home.’ The researchers tested 16 randomly-selected devices and were able to hack all of them by a methodical process of reverse-engineering.
Shockingly, although all devices were password-protected by the manufacturer, the easiest used ‘1234’ as the password, whereas a high-end baby monitor took just 2 days to crack.
It is not only about being able to prevent hackers from accessing your home, what about listening in into your private conversations. In 2019 Google and Amazon and Google were under attack when it became known that their Alexa and Google Home Voice Assistants were recording private conversations and that thousands of their employees had access to listen in.
Back to home security; a frightful research in the Netherlands discovered that 17,444 buildings with KNX systems were accessible to hackers. Although KNX systems are innately secure by design, this researcher was able to exploit weakly-protected IP gateways to gain access to the KNX system and remote control every single feature within it. We’ll explore how this happens later on, but it is clear that security should be high on our list of priorities. The security considerations will vary from system to system, but whatever home automation system you choose, security needs to be a top consideration, and all aspects of the system need to be considered.
So, just how safe is your KNX home? This will depend a lot on which system you use and just how well it is set up.
Each system will only be as secure as its weakest link, so while a wired KNX system has security built into its ‘DNA’, this can be undermined by an improperly-installed IP gateway which is inadequately secured. This can happen, for example, when your integrator decides to install an IP gateway and leave it in place to provide ‘backdoor’ access (to allow remote assistance and for configuring networks remotely). KNX IP gateways can be secure, but they need to be properly configured for this by an expert.
For a wireless system (which uses radio frequency (RF), Bluetooth, or WiFi signals to communicate between devices), it is possible for a weakly-secured device (like a lightbulb) to be hijacked, and the entire system can be compromised this way. It takes a little effort from the hacker, but the fact that the signals are flying around in the air (and not contained safely in wires) means it is inherently less secure. One factor in the hack ability of many wireless devices is the fact that these sit in a lower price category. So there are loads of generic ‘compatible’ devices being churned out with little regard to security or long-term product support.
It isn’t all about the security of your home, or worrying about being burgled. Another big concern is data privacy; what happens to the data stored about you, or your home, and how are the automations processed? Where is the video feed for your cameras stored? Is it secure? These are serious questions to consider.
As we have seen, if a device isn’t secure enough, it could be hacked. This could enable it to be controlled by an unauthorised person, and potentially allow someone to unlock your doors, access your camera feeds, or worse. Big-brand smart home device manufacturers are very aware of these concerns, and you should expect a high level of security from approved devices. Apple, for example, has a rigorous certification program, meaning any device that is certified for its HomeKit system is fitted with a special Apple authentication chip which provides end-to-end encryption.
There is a big difference, however, between approved, ‘Certified’ devices and ‘Compatible’ devices. Many ‘compatible’ devices are made by ‘pop-up’ tech companies and ‘kickstarter’ brands that do not have the expertise, resources or stamina to see a certification process like that of Apple HomeKit through, and provide adequate security support for their products. Also, who knows how long the company will be around for? So, this is a pretty convincing argument for sticking to official or fully-certified devices.
Usually each independent smart accessory will usually come with its own app, which has all the vulnerabilities of any piece of software (as well as being a pain in the ass to figure out which app is for what device). The threat here really is twofold: malicious control, and violation of data privacy. This can depend also on how the app works; it may rely on cloud processing and storage to perform tasks, in which case this needs to be authenticated, secure and encrypted. Could the remote servers be hacked? Would your information be securely encrypted? This may again depend on the reliability of the company who makes the device/app. Yet another reason to go for big, established brands that can afford a good security team.
Both Google and Amazon require smart home users to have a registered account, and all information about their home system is stored on remote servers, (along with all the automation settings). Although the servers of Google and Amazon themselves are adequately secured, there is still the possibility of information being intercepted as it travels between your home network and their servers. And even if you trust these companies to secure your data privacy, you should have the right to choose.
As we have seen, even a KNX installation might be vulnerable if equipped with an unsecured IP gateway; this presents the real possibility of a ‘bad actor’ gaining access to your automation settings (or controlling the entire system). In theory, this could allow someone to see what devices are in your home, figure out details about your home itself (how many rooms it has, if children live there etc.), and to see what automation settings or scenes you have already made.
Collectively, this provides a window into your life: where you live, what’s in your house, when you are at home and when you are NOT at home.
Security is a balance between safety, and being able to enjoy life and live it to the full. So, you are the one to choose a security level that suits you and your lifestyle.
Our 5 tips to take along for securing your smart home:
Ensure the smart products you bring into your home are certified products, and not products that are ‘compatible with’. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. The lowest bidders are not necessarily the best choice, certainly not when it comes to securing what is most important to you; your family, privacy and home.
Think through what home automation standard you want to build your smart home upon. Established standards like Z-Wave (Wireless) or KNX (Wired) have developed security protocols like Z-Wave S2 or KNX Secure, ensuring data encryption and device authentication.
In case you have smart products in your home that depend on cloud computing/processing, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant, your private data will travel the internet. Of course you have to make sure to have your account and network password protected, and make use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) where possible. Check your smart home solutions and devices on if/how they encrypt your data, before it is exposed to the cloud.
The virtues of wireless home automation are quite clear; you can start small, and grow into home automation by expanding the number of smart devices gradually; you can use it in your existing environment with no need to renovate the house. In case you are kitting out your entire home with home automation, you want to consider wired home automation systems, like KNX. KNX systems are innately secure because they are hard-wired and effectively ‘air-gapped’ from the outside world, with your total home automation running locally. Next to that KNX has developed its own security standard KNX Secure
Even with a wired locally run home automation system like KNX, you do want to be able to remote control your KNX home, make use of location based automations (geofencing). With HomeKit coupled to a KNX system, you have the best of both worlds; as all critical information stays within the home, on the Apple Hub, even when installing remote control or geofencing via your iPhone. What little information that is sent out (or stored) is encrypted and anonymised. Not even Apple will know whose information it is, and it is only information that relates to the functionality.
The HomeKit system has additional security benefits as the HomeKit Certification requires smart home products to meet Apple’s high standards, and integrate a MFI chip for authentication and end-to-end encryption of data.
Once your information leaves the home, there is no guarantee how it might be intercepted, retained, or handled. This can be avoided by using a more secure system like Apple’s HomeKit.
Why would we want to compromise a secure KNX system by offering installers remote access to KNX?
Well, home automation is all about convenience. So how convenient is it to need to wait around all day for a system integrator to come and fix or make other changes to your KNX system? For that matter, how convenient is it for the integrator – who needs to drive around the country to make home visits?
Not very convenient at all - especially when it could be diagnosed and fixed from the comfort of their own office!!! That would save money and time for you, and help your system integrator to assist more clients during the working day. For this reason, KNX system integrators like to offer remote assistance for their clients. It benefits everyone, and keeps costs low. Therefore, a KNX-IP gateway is installed.
A KNX installer needs a KNX-IP gateway for a couple of key tasks. During the configuration, all devices are added to the project file for the home using an ETS tool. The system installation and configuration is mostly done on-site, making use of a KNX IP Gateway. But in the aftermath of installation and configuration, adaptations and finetuning are needed. In these cases the IP gateway becomes useful again, as your installer can perform a remote diagnostic on the system and see if a home visit is necessary. If the problem doesn’t require a home visit, or can be fixed remotely, even better! For this reason, integrators leave the KNX-IP gateway in place with backdoor access, for them to remotely diagnose problems (and potentially fix them too). So your installer will need a separate KNX IP Gateway when setting up or maintaining your KNX smart home.
But there is a smarter alternative to this.
Thinka KNX PRO has a built in KNX IP gateway for the KNX system, and offers remote access to KNX via ETS over VPN.
The standard Thinka HomeKit for KNX already makes it possible to change your KNX home into a truly smart home, with all the 21st century smart home automation that HomeKit has to offer. With our standard KNX HomeKit Bridge, a homeowner can take control of her KNX system via HomeKit, without the need to call a system integrator for setting up scenes or automations like geofencing. Also with Thinka KNX connected to a KNX system, HomeKit certified products like Philips Hue and Sonos can safely be connected to the KNX system.
And, now, with the same product, you can also provide your installer KNX remote access in a secure way! Launching April 15 2021, Thinka KNX PRO will be combining the Thinka KNX with a KNX IP Gateway and a VPN connection for secure remote access via ETS to the KNX system of your customer. Remote ETS programming or troubleshooting, and remote access to the KNX system itself is now possible in a secure way.
All the convenience, without sacrificing security or data privacy.
Secure remote access to KNX for your integrator, and all the advantages for you as a homeowner to being able to bridge a KNX system to Apple’s HomeKit.
Read more about the different levels of Secure Remote Control to KNX Thinka has to offer.
Thinka KNX PRO is available for sale as of 15 April1, 2021.
Thinka launched their first product, Thinka HomeKit for KNX - Bridge in 2016. Thinka KNX connects KNX building and home automation systems, with Apple HomeKit and other market leading Home Assistants. Today, April 15, 2021, we launch Thinka KNX PRO; a HomeKit for KNX Bridge with a built-in IP Gateway and Secure Remote Access to the local Thinka and KNX system.
Every system integrator will explain just how important remote access is to the KNX system, to ensure the expected service levels of building- or home owners. Remote Access offers the possibility to quickly react on outings or adaptations needed, without bothering the customer unnecessary. This is why the system integrator usually leaves the IP Gateway, which is needed for first time setup and configuration, in place to provide a “backdoor” access.
"This backdoor often undermines the security of the, otherwise very secure KNX system", according to Michael Franken, founder and CEO of Thinka
Thinka KNX PRO provides a built-in KNX IP Gateway, and a safe entrance over VPN for secure remote access. By doing so, Thinka KNX PRO offers the convenience of remote access without giving in on security and privacy standards.
Thinka connects KNX Buildings and Home Automation systems with the user experience that today’s consumers have come to expect. Thinka’s choice is the iPhone/iPad with its integrated Home App as KNX Control & Visualisation medium, enabling all advanced home automation functionalities HomeKit has to offer, like scene setting, family sharing, geofencing, adaptive lighting and voice control.
Thinka KNX is the brain that sits in your smart home. An intuitive brain that makes life easy, or at least makes it look easy. This brain understands all the complexity of protocols and devices, monitors the state of your KNX home system and presents all the various options as a select and tasteful menu. She can easily read all KNX configurations, translating this to the Home App on your iPhone or iPad. Thinka is equipped with a powerful processor, so she is not depending on the cloud for computing power.
Thinka is an Amsterdam-based Smart Home company. Started in 2016 with launching their first product Thinka KNX, Thinka focuses on IoT and domotics technology. Allowing homeowners to interact with their home in a very user friendly manner, their aim is to build products that make life easier and more fun, hiding the complexity of home automation, security and protocols. Thinka believes that interaction with your home should be similar to driving your car; smart, safe, and comfortable. www.thinka.eu
In order for you to make your building or home automation system smart, you need smart home add-on's. A popular one is Gira X1. We love Gira for its quality products, but are they up to standard yet when it comes to making a KNX home, a smart home?
Every major electronics or home automation brand has jumped on the smart home bandwagon, or at least so they say. At Thinka we distinguish smart home versus home automation. Not because we are language puritans (we tend to swop these terms back and forth ourselves as well). To understand the value of a real smart home, it is good to get the difference between home automation and smart home.
Building- and/or home automation have been around for years.
Take KNX as an example. Last year, October 2020, KNX celebrated her 30th anniversary. Yes, you read this correctly. In 30 years the KNX standard has developed herself into a market leading home/building automation standard. With a supporting association that does not only develop the standard further but keeps developing the market outreach as well. At this moment around 500 manufacturers offer over 3000 different KNX products and 90.000 trained system integrators ready to execute yet another KNX building or home.
KNX is great in itself, it is reliable, durable, secure and extensive. But KNX is not smart. You can not control it from your phone, you can not access it away from your home. It is very hard to create your own scenes without the support of a system integrator, who needs to program the scenes in ETS. And it does not have any automations. It just does not know when the sun goes down to close your curtains. And so much more that is not possible.
KNX is developed to ensure for devices to execute on a number of commands and to operate together. The commands and operation layout is programmed by a system integrator, scenes are baked into the system, and not easily changeable.
The way to operate the automated home started off via switches and is now mostly done via a combination of switches and touchscreens. And of course via mobile Apps as well.
You don’t need a lot of imagination, to envision a sales manager of a KNX manufacturer calling out to the engineering department “We need an App”. So, most KNX manufacturers have built native Apps to do what the switches and touchscreens do.
At Thinka, we made an App as well, only to pair Thinka KNX with HomeKit. We did not built an App to manage or control your KNX system. We use the existing Apple Home App for that purpose, which is standard available on every iPhone or iPad. So why did we not build our own App? For starters, why build something which is already on every phone? Next to that we do not have the slightest belief, we can outsmart the user experience that Apple designers have made. The Apple Home App is ingeniously simple and intuitive to use.
Having an App does not make your home smart, in most cases it is just a nicer switch, a remote control with touch buttons. It is the software application that make the difference.
Software makes it possible for your KNX system to connect to voice control of Amazon Alexa, to connect to your Sonos Sound system. Software makes it possible to connect to your home remotely. To define automations, like Geofencing, that triggers a device to operate based on your location. Or like Adaptive Lighting, with which the color temperature of your lights automatically switches with the time of day and the environmental light.
Gira X1 offers Sonos integration to your KNX server and an app to control your KNX system together with Sonos. When combined with the Gira S1, the Gira X1 offers you more; integration of Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant and secure remote control of your home. You can use the Gira X1 app on your phone and tablet. Or use it on a Gira G1 tablet.
Like the Gira X1 /S1 combination, Thinka KNX offers the connection to Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Sonos. Thinka KNX advises the use of the Apple Home App for visualisation and (remote) control, but if you like Android better, then use Google Home App instead.
The big difference between Thinka KNX and the combination Gira X1/S1, apart from the price tag, is that Thinka KNX offers you also the integration with HomeKit, truly opening up smart home possibilities, like scene setting, automations, family sharing, remote control, geofencing, adaptive lighting. Next to that you automatically have access to all the products that are HomeKit certified, opening up a wealth of additional devices to your KNX system.
Of course we will keep making sure our Thinka KNX portfolio works seamlessly with Gira KNX, like it does today.
Click here to find our comparison of Gira X1. Gira S1 and Thinka KNX
This German family did it. They have build their own smart home from the ground up. And more importantly for all of us, they have been logging all experiences along the way on their blog Smarthomebau.de. A wealth of learnings, tips & tricks.
Read about the choices they have made and the reasoning behind, Their struggles as well as their successes. Read how they have tried our Voice Control via Amazon Alexa with our Thinka KNX.
Thinka and Alexa are the two new roommates of the family that lives in this Amsterdam mansion. Thinka is a Dutch product that bridges the gap between homeowners and their often complicated home automation. It makes it possible to control all devices in the house with your voice.
One of the systems which Thinka connects to is Alexa, the Amazon Echo Voice Assistant. Alexa whispers the residents' spoken wishes to Thinka. Together they ensure that the house does what the residents want and answers all their questions.
Just like the new digi housemates, the residents of this house in the heart of Amsterdam are an interesting couple. We're talking about Gillian Tan's CEO of Booking.com and Bond Chan, lead investor at hotel chain Zoku. Their mansion at the Vondelpark, which they live in with their three children, was already equipped with a KNX home automation system in 2008. All lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, sun blinds and the door intercom are integrated in it. Until now, they operated this via a touchscreen in the kitchen and smart probes in the various rooms. The enterprising couple were in the front row when Thinka saw the light. Partly because of personal interest in the latest technologies, partly also because of business interest in the possibilities that these offer for, for example, the hotel room experience. They were eager to experience what operating the installations with your voice would add to their living pleasure.
Thinka has only been in use for a few months, but Gillian and Bond are already making good use of it, in addition to the other ways they can operate their equipment and installation. For the time being they still have to speak to Alexa in English, but if it is up to Amazon that will soon be possible in other languages as well.
For the kids, there's nothing more fun than just having to say "Alexa, turn on Cinema" to let the smart TV play their favorite movie. For the parents it is nice to be assured with a simple "Good night" that all lights in the house go out and the door is locked. “When the alarm goes off, all we have to do is say" Good morning "to put the house in day mode. The light in the hallway to the bathroom comes on, the heating is on and the espresso machine is preheated when we come downstairs. Of course we don't really need it, but we love handy, smart applications in the house. We love technologies that make life easier and more fun. And Alexa and Thinka give us the icing on the cake of home automation, ”says Bond.
The family quickly became familiar with the operation of the system and is very satisfied with it. “Just shout 'Alexa, I'm home' and Thinka turns on the welcome light and my favorite radio station turns on in the living room. The radius in which Alexa picks up our voice is quite large. And even when the music is on, Alexa takes our orders. It's funny that she keeps talking back. When you give her a command, she always confirms the action with an "Ok". This way you can also be sure that it has been implemented. This is very useful if you request in the bedroom to set everything in the house to night mode. She also answers if you ask, for example, how warm it is in the bedroom. The great thing is that you don't have to teach the Voice Assistant any voices or words. Alexa already has that intelligence. She just wants to know what you call the table lamp and the blinds, so that she understands what you are talking about if you want to do something with it. Thinka makes all of this possible. We can still operate all functions on the touchscreen or using the room controllers.”
For the time being, Gillian and Bond still have to speak to Alexa in English, but in the future they will also be able to do so in Dutch. Experience with the use of Thinka shows that residents do not want to switch every lamp individually, but have chosen 10 scenarios which are operated by Thinka. These scenarios are recorded by Thinka in so-called "Scenes'' such as "Good night", "Cooking" or "Homework". Gillian and Bond do not have to do difficult home automation programming, but can simply manage these scenes with their smartphone.
Michael Franken, founder of Thinka, is closely involved with these forerunners and their experiences. They provide Thinka with important input for the further development of the product. “Installing Thinka is easy. By installing the small box and importing the KNX programming into it, Thinka is ready for use. Furthermore, you must of course link the chosen Voice Assistant to the system. For example, if you use Siri as a Voice Assistant to Thinka, the iPhone of the main occupant can also invite other family members to participate; children, grandparents or a good friend. You can grant or deny them certain rights. For example, you will not want your children to play with the lamps at home when they are bored at school.”
According to Michael Franken, it is very easy for home owners to create scenes themselves with Thinka, to change names of objects (for example: dining table lamp), commands ('bedroom light at 80%') or multiple action scenes ('good morning' or ' I'm awake '). “It's simple and intuitive to operate,” he says. Thinka also offers a solution for hotels. In this way, guests can create the desired atmosphere in their hotel room by simply operating the available functions with their voice. This is one of the possibilities that Gillian and Bond are researching in-house based on their business interest in the world of hospitality.
Thinka is ready, now the Voice Assistants have yet to become multilingual.
Thinka KNX translates spoken words into digital commands at the KNX installation. For example, it becomes possible to initiate multiple actions with a short sentence. Say "romantic" and the KNX installation knows you want to dim the lights slowly, close the curtains and switch on the gas fire. Say "cook" and Thinka will brighten the lights in the kitchen and play your favorite music.
Thinka currently supports Alexa. Alexa can play music on demand, read the news, find you a recipe, and tell you who America's tenth president was. Connecting her to Thinka makes her even smarter. To use Alexa to operate your KNX home, install the “Thinka-skill” and you're done. Alexa knows at once which devices she can operate on the commands that the users want to set for it. Alexa is available in English, German, and Japanese, but Amazon is working on more languages.
Once a writers' fantasy. Now it is really possible. Where Ali Baba got access to the cave of the Forty Thieves with the magic password "Open Sesame", we can now open and close doors by spoken word, turn lights on and off, turn down the heating. It all became possible with the rise of artificial intelligence, a development that is now gaining momentum. By combining artificial intelligence applications such as Siri, Alexa with Thinka, new applications arise of which we cannot yet imagine the ultimate possibilities and impact.
The interview with Gillian Tans and Bond Chan was originally published in Dutch in FWD 17/3/2018
Interested to learn how Thinka is being used in a hotel? See also the use of Thinka KNX in the Pomegranate Wellness Spa Hotel
Although there is plenty of choice in the home-automation field, HomeKit has some strong advantages which make it an attractive option for the long-term. Next to that there have been some big innovations and additions coming to HomeKit for a few years now, and it looks like 2021 might be the year it will all come together.
So, could 2021 be the year for HomeKit to really shine?
Before we get to the innovations let us start with bringing back in mind what makes HomeKit our choice to start with.
The main advantages of HomeKit are:
HomeKit is truly great at setting automations, called scenes, in which your selection of devices are triggered under certain conditions.
These HomeKit scene triggers include:
You can even get Siri to use facial recognition to let you know when a specific person arrives at your door. How cool is that.
Apple's Homekit has taken a different development path to both its major competitors, opting for a 'slow and steady wins the race' kind of approach.
HomeKit has relied a lot less on the development of cheap, generic, 'compatible' products. Instead, it has leaned further into ensuring the core design philosophy is maintained throughout the HomeKit ecosystem.
Apple has worked hard to maintain this. Every device that is certified by Apple contains either an MFi (Made For iPhone/iPad/etc.) authentication chip or a secure software equivalent, and this can only be obtained by working closely with Apple’s technicians through all stages of the design and development phase. For this reason, there are fewer devices that work with HomeKit, but they do work perfectly. Another advantage of this is that Apple has maintained control over system security.
‘Hey Siri, play some jazz in the kitchen, and dim the lights downstairs.’ There may be more limited options, but there is no limit to the functionality of HomeKit, no matter what your plans are. Of course, you pay for the quality and intentional design of HomeKit’s approved accessories, but there is nothing missing in terms of capability. You basically just miss out on cheap knock-offs.
The Home app allows users to control and automate all the HomeKit connected products (Apple names these accessories).
The Home App is standard available on your iPhone, iPad or SmartWatch, and is just as easy to use as you would expect. It has an intuitive design, helpful prompts and suggestions, and is uncluttered. It is still basically a version 1.0, with very little having changed since the launch in 2016. Because it is that good. It was so well-designed from the outset that it did not need any changes (at least not from the UX side of things).
This is a big contrast with both the Google Home app and Amazon Alexa app, both of which are confusing and rather clunky to use.
You can use almost all of the smart home features with just an iPhone, but to really make the most from HomeKit, and especially to control your home remotely or use your automated scenes, you need an Apple hub that stays in the home. There are actually a few different options to choose from, including Apple’s Home Pod, the 4th generation Apple TV’s or an iPad, so if you have one of these you’re all set.
The fact that an Apple hub is needed, will cost a fair bit more than the cheapest Echo or Nest speakers, but the cost of Apple products is not a surprise or a disincentive for most HomeKit users. What they want is the guaranteed quality and ease of use – and they definitely get it with HomeKit.
More over, with making use of an Apple hub, HomeKit guarantees data privacy and security!
Your data privacy is pretty secure too.
Although Siri still processes voice commands using remote Apple hardware, there is actually very little data that is stored about you or your home by Apple. Voice requests are not even identified as being from you, but are instead given a random, device-generated identifier code. Even Apple would not be able to see what you had been asking Siri to do. What little data that does get stored, relates to customisation and the ability to recognise your voice (and know what you are talking about).
Controlling your home remotely is done via end-to-end encryption and authentication between your Apple iPhone outside your home and your Apple hub inside your home.
The core security of Apple devices is one of the chief advantages of the HomeKit system, and a major draw for most home automation users, who tend to be wary of sharing information and security.
Many of them already use an iPhone because it is inherently more secure than other phones, and have likewise chosen home automation because of the security options available. The price tag is not the issue here, but the usability and user experience is. People want their home automation to be as secure and easy to use as their iPhone, so HomeKit is a natural choice.
OK not there yet, but what can Siri do for you? Well, there are a LOT of standard features that come with your iPhone, but when connected to a complete smart home the possibilities seem endless.
Calls and Texts
Messaging and placing hands-free calls to friends, colleagues and enemies. As a powerful personal assistant, Siri can also make use of your agenda to remind you about meetings or even friend’s birthdays.
Getting you up
While it might be possible to do a lot from bed, Siri can help make the morning easier with automations set around your morning routine. Lighting, alarms, music, or whatever else you need in the morning. You can either ask Siri directly, or set an automation to make it happen.
The more you use Siri, the more it can help. Siri is smart enough to look at your agenda and suggest automated scenes to match. Always take a walk at 11am? Then expect a suggestion to turn off the lights for you when you go. Even more fun when other people are still at home.
Keeping an eye out for you
Have you left the garage door open? Just ask Siri. Has your parcel been delivered? Check easily, by asking to see the driveway camera.
Stuck on the Sofa
‘Hey Siri, let’s watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy’! No more looking for the remote; you can order a pizza, dim the lights and start watching your favorite 12-hour trilogy - all without leaving the sofa.
There have been some big innovations and additions coming to HomeKit for a few years now, and it looks like 2021 might be the year it will all come together.
Here are our picks for the top 3 HomeKit products for 2021:
Back in 2018, Apple announced it was joining forces with Thread, but this is only now bearing fruit. Despite the protective approach Apple has towards its development, it intrinsically seems to realise that there is a need for interoperability, and now Thread is supported on the HomePod mini.
Thread is a NEW connectivity standard, which has been developed by some of the biggest names in automation and technology. It works using a secure IP-based connectivity standard, that makes it easy to add or remove new devices because the network will auto-configure. Products that use Thread are still being developed, but the rollout could be very quick. The potential here is HUGE.
If HomeKit remains entirely closed it will eventually lose appeal. After all, it was several years until Apple was able to offer support for windows-format files on the iMac, but it did eventually happen. So, for HomeKit users this is great news.
The interoperability is a big appeal with Thread, but it has other advantages too. HomeKit uses WiFi signals to communicate with and manage accessories, but this has limitations. For one thing, what if the WiFi doesn’t reach the basement, where your smart accessory is?
Well, then it won’t work.
But Thread uses a mesh-network, that enables each Thread device to connect to the router, or act as a signal booster for the next device in the mesh. This way, the reach is extended much further, and can even be used for low-powered battery-operated devices.
This is definitely one for the shopping-list. If you use an iCloud storage plan it is possible to connect this to your HomeKit using the secure video service. This will enable you to use end-to-end encryption for all your HomeKit security cameras.
There is no additional fee, just the cost of the compatible camera, and your ongoing iCloud subscription.
After rolling out last year, secure video has now become supported by more devices. You can use up to 5 recording-enabled cameras to securely capture and record video from your home for you to watch at any time (within 10 days), from any location, using the Home app. Although multiple users can access the system, the primary Home app user can restrict which users can view all the recordings. Even though the footage is stored on your iCloud, you have total control over who has access, so not even Apple can watch your videos (unless you want them to).
One of the big new things in HomeKit, and definitely our favourite when it comes to truly smart home automation, is the addition of ‘Adaptive Lighting’ which will set a new standard for convenient and comfortable lighting.
Adaptive Lighting is not like other smart lights. With Adaptive Lighting, your lights will adjust their color temperature automatically, based on the time of day, year and your home environment. Wake up with soft yellow tones, work productively with bright cool white and pour your self a glass of wine surrounded by warm yellow lighting at sun set. Real Smart!
With this feature, Apple’s HomeKit smart home software can automatically adjust the color temperature of supported smart home lights throughout the day. You can get warm yellow tones in the morning as the sun rises, cool white lighting at mid-day, and softer yellow hues at night as the sun sets—all automatically.
Adaptive Lighting was first introduced as part of iOS 14 software updates in September 2020, and only works with smart lights or bridges! that support it. So far Philips Hue bulbs and Eve Light Strip are the first two that support it.
Thinka HomeKit for KNX is the first bridge to have Adaptive Lighting in Beta
Find out how you can link HomeKit to a KNX system with a Thinka KNX Bridge, and unlock all the HomeKit smart home functionalities to your KNX home.
Thinka continues to update her products and services based upon your feedback.
On Februari 25, 2021, Thinka launches Thinka Installer Support, a secure remote access to the Thinka Web Client of your customer. Thinka Installer Support offers you the possibility for remote diagnostics, and safe you time and not-needed customer visits. Upon granting access by the customer, Thinka connects to the Thinka server and generates a magic number. This magic number needs to be shared with you by your customer. With this number you can connect to the Thinka server and make a connection with your customer's Thinka.
Thinka Installer Support is available for all Thinka's from 25/02/21 onwards.
Thinka now supports the functionality "Set Point Shift" for thermostats with the new Thinka Software release v4.3.1179.
With "Set Point Shift" it is possible to change the temperature versus the Basic Set point temperature. This addition opens up a higher variety of KNX thermostats that are supported by Thinka KNX.
Configuration of your thermostat is one of the more complex configurations.
The first thing you need to do when configuring your thermostat is to select the type of thermostat: heating, cooling, or heating and cooling. When a thermostat is used for heating and cooling you also need to select whether switching between the heating mode or cooling mode is manual or automatic.
The next configuration option determines how to adjust the Thermostat Setpoint. Either the thermostat's basic setpoint can be adjusted directly or the setpoint can be shifted.
When shifting the setpoint you need to select whether the setpoint can be shifted by a temperature difference or by using a counter value. The counter value is multiplied by the setpoint shift steps in the KNX thermostat to determine the actual adjustment. Ensure that the step size matches the configuration in the KNX thermostat's parameters.
Next you can select the minimum and maximum target temperature. These values determine the available values in the Home App when adjusting the thermostat. They may differ from the allowed values in the thermostat.
After configuring all the parameters you can configure the group addresses used to control the KNX thermostat. You can The group addresses to configure depend on the selected parameters. Want to read more on which parameters you can show on your HomeApp? Go to FAQ - How to configure my thermostat
Thinka KNX has upgraded her hardware. Our hardware version will move from v1.2 to v1.3.
Thinka v1.3 12-30V, 5Watt can be powered by the KNX Auxiliary Power.
Did Thinka KNX v1.2 still needed a separate power supply, with our new version v1.3 that is no longer needed.
All products shipped from 23 October 2020 onwards are v1.3
With KNXperience in full swing, our founder and CEO Michael Franken was interviewed by KNXToday. Michael explains how Security and Data Protection underlie the Thinka KNX Bridge as one of the four design principles.
Our four design principles are:
Controls, that are convenient and super easy to use. At Thinka, we choose the iPhone. A device you already have and take with you all the time; that fits in your pocket, and that your family members use as well. Thinka allows you to take control of your home with an app made by Apple, powerful but simple.
Thinka KNX is the brain that sits in your smart home. An intuitive brain that makes life easy, or at least makes it look easy. This brain understands all the complexity of protocols and accessories, monitors the state of your home and accessories and presents all the various options as a select and tasteful menu. Thinka can easily read all KNX configurations (in ETS) and assist in the configuration of your smartphone or tablet. Thinka is equipped with a powerful processor, so she is not depending on the cloud for computing power.
Your home is your castle – a safe haven. Thinka does not need to know how you live, we do not require an account, and we do not ask for your data. All data stays on your Thinka, and we have no access to it. Thinka has no need to leave your house, if you choose to. Thinka also works with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. It is important to realise they have a different philosophy: they require an account and your data is processed in the cloud. That’s why our first focus is on Apple HomeKit, as it can totally run within your home.
Being the brain of your smart home comes with responsibilities. That’s why Thinka is officially certified by Apple. We do not allow for work-arounds. Apple certification demands that the Thinka is equipped with an authentication chip (MFI). This chip is also used in all Apple products and makes communication between Thinka and your iPhone totally safe. Also when you leave the house, and control your home remotely or install geofencing.
Read the interview of our CEO Michael Franken at KNXToday
Importing ETS Projects into THINKA becomes a piece of cake, when setting up your ETS projects via the Link With Function of ETS5.
When using the Link With functionality, the import of ETS Projects into THINKA is done almost automatically, with manual adjustments decreased to a bare minimum. The functionality creates the group addresses for you. This is done using Floors, Rooms, Channels and Functions. Although released already in April 2016, we notice that a lot of System Integrators are not yet making use of this hidden gem in ETS5.
We have prepared a THINKA Video Tutorial in which we show you how to set up a project in ETS using the Linked With functionality and how to import your ETS Project into THINKA.
This week Apple held their yearly WWDC and announced a lot of new features. For Thinka this means that there are some interesting features for HomeKit users:
The Home App makes smart home control even easier with new automation suggestions and expanded controls in Control Centre for quicker access to accessories and scenes. Adaptive Lighting for compatible HomeKit-enabled lights automatically adjusts the colour temperature throughout the day. The Home app and HomeKit are built to be private and secure, so all information about a user’s home accessories is end-to-end encrypted.
This means that as soon as iOS 14 is available you will be able to adjust the colour temperature of your lights according to the time of day, just like you are used to on your iPhone, where it is called "Night Shift". Night shift automatically shifts the colours of your display to the warmer end of the colour spectrum after dark. This may help you get a better night's sleep.
Also there a few new icons on the HomeApp, that will show the most important devices and events in your Home.
Recently the new version of our app was accepted by Apple and released in the App Store. The app now allows you to monitor the status of your network and KNX system. Furthermore it supports Thinka's that are protected with a password.
Just like before it still assists you in pairing your Thinka with HomeKit on your phone, and putting all devices in the proper rooms. The app will show a notification of the number of Thinka accessories that are out-of-sync with HomeKit as well.
If you have any questions or requests, please let us know via email@example.com If you like the app, please leave a review in the App Store, we really appreciate it.
What if … your favorite football team is playing and when they score your lights start flashing!
What if ... it starts raining and your sun shades close automatically!
That’s possible with Thinka because besides Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, Thinka can also be connected with Olisto.
Olisto connects your devices, apps, and services and makes them all work together. How? By creating your own rules. Build real time connections between multiple devices, apps and services.
Have a look for the summary of features you can control using Olisto.
Or start using Olisto by enabling the feature on your Thinka and visit the Thinka channel on Olisto.
Dear Thinka Customer,
Current developments regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) are raising many questions over the whole world. That’s why we would like to inform you about the current situation at Thinka.
The Thinka Team is as usual available for support, we are working on updates and making Thinka even better.The webshop is open 24 hours a day. You can reach us via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and telephone +31(0)20 2420666 from Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 17:30.
We are convinced that we will master this crisis together and wish you, your family and your colleagues the best of luck and health in the coming weeks!
We will of course keep you informed of all developments.
Do you have any questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Stay safe and healthy,
Thinka has been supporting color lights for a while, with the latest version 4.3.1046, support has been expanded to include KNX actuators with separate dimmer channels for all colors.
For configuration, select the “Lightbulb (Color)” service type and “Separate color channels” for the Color Datapoint Type parameter. Each color channel needs to be configured with set and listen addresses for the switch and brightness group objects. The white channel is optional.
As of now Thinka is Apple certified for push buttons, tunable white lights, color lights, leak and smoke sensors. Again a great step forward. All HomeKit, Alexa and Google supported features can be found here.
The 5 new supported features:
Seldom has home automation contributed so much to the quality of life as in the home of Bernhard Müller. The Dutch entrepreneur was diagnosed with the incurable illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2010. The powerful combination of KNX home automation and Thinka voice control gives Bernhard the opportunity to live and work at home as independently as possible.
The whole - and impressive - article is published In the KNX Journal of March 2019.
Download KNX Journal 2019 ALS article English or German
Joost Schellevis published an article on a national Dutch news channel with the results of a study by ethical hacker Daan Keuper (Computest) showing 17444 buildings with the systems based on the KNX standard are easily accessible to hackers. The complete article can be found here.
The source of this vulnerability lies in the fact that the KNX system is opened up to the Internet with a IP-Gateway that is not properly secured. A KNX IP-Gateway can be safe when properly installed by your home automation specialist. Unfortunately this is not common practice.
Use Thinka-for-KNX bridge and Apple for proper security
Thinka developed a KNX bridge to control houses and buildings using Apple HomeKit. Each Apple device and Thinka itself is equipped with an encryption chip realising secure communication.
Thinka is HomeKit certified so all communication between your KNX installation and the Thinka is encrypted. To guarantee security and privacy, Thinka is installed inside your KNX enabled home and information from your configuration is never exposed over the internet. Thinka only communicates to
the internet for software updates and when using Alexa or Google Home.
How to get it for free?
All you need to do is go to the settings page of your Thinka and you will find the option to enable Google Home support*. Meanwhile you can read how to setup Google on your Thinka from our support page.
Work in progress
Google is growing its platform and we keep up to date with them as much as possible. For now its possible to work with switches and lights. See also the overview of all supported features supported features for Apple, Amazon and Google. If you have any question, something not working, a wish, please let us know via email@example.com.
Some users need to upgrade
Google Smart Home support is available on the certified HomeKit version of Thinka for KNX.
What is new?
1. Incremental import
When importing your ETS file again, the existing configuration stays intact and all changes gathered in the 'Review room'. From here you can start fine-tuning your configuration.
2. Review room
In the review room all items are shown that need additional information or were added when you performed an incremental import. A kind of to-do list.
3. Autocomplete group addresses
For all accessories you need to fill in the group addresses. When you start typing (the service name) Thinka gives a list of options you can choose from. Select the right item and all addresses are automatically filled in. This feature helps you speeding up the configuration process. See this video for an example. In order for this to work you need to (re)import your ETS file.
4. Drag & Drop
You can now drag and drop accessories to a room. See this video for an example.
5. Edit and Save
When you edit the configuration it will not be applied until you press the 'Save' button. This way editing becomes easier.
More information can be found at:
Thinka support pages
Thinka Vimeo channel
Amazon Alexa works with ’Routines’ allowing the voice assistant to complete multiple tasks with a single voice command.
With Routines users no longer have to give multiple commands to Alexa, such as “Alexa, turn off the living room lamp,” “Alexa, turn down the thermostat,” and “Alexa, what's the weather”. Instead, you can let Alexa take care of them with one command. And Alexa can give you a spoken notification back.
Routines can be triggered in two ways. You give the command to start a routine. For example ‘movie time’.
Or use a contact or motion sensor to start a routine automatically.
Thinka for KNX
Thinka for KNX connects Amazon Alexa to your home meaning all selected devices in your house - including your smart sensors - can be used in routines. So you’re totally free in making your house more smart and comfortable. Works with Apple Homekit as well.
For Alexa, the voice assistant of Amazon, Thinka developed a great new feature.
Control color and tunable white lights
House owners with a KNX system and a Thinka KNX bridge can now use Amazons voice assistant ALEXA to set the lights in any color they want. It works for color (HSB) and tuneable white lights. Thinka is the first one in the world making this possible.
‘Alexa, Set the living room lights purple’‘
Alexa, turn the bathroom lights warm red’
An overview of all supported features by Thinka for KNX can be viewed over here.
In this video you can see how voice control is being used in the Royal Suite of the Pomegranate Wellness Spa Hotel. It shows voice control of lights, thermostat, curtains, scenes, and more. This hotel room uses KNX home automation and a Thinka, a bridge connecting KNX to the world of Google, Amazon and Apple and gives users all new kind of possibilities like voice control, touch control, geo fences and more.
A KNX project of George Karipidis.
In this blog I will try to explain each option and describe how this option is available in HomeKit.
First off, the most simple version of a thermostat is one where you can only set the target temperature. To get this to work Thinka only requires two group addresses. One address for the actual temperature and one for the setpoint temperature. Use a temperature sensor when you only want to be able to read the actual temperature. This will show up in Apple's Home app as a simple temperature slider. Or use Siri:"Hey Siri, it's cold in here" "Okay, I'm warming the living room from 19°C to 20°C."
We can also let Thinka know if your KNX climate system is currently heating or not. This is done with the "Heating status" setting. When you system is heating this will show in the Home app as "Heating to X°" and the icon will turn orange.
Same goes for "Cooling status". This only applies if you KNX climate system supports cooling and it works the same as the "Heating status" above. This will show in the Home app as "Cooling to X°" and the icon will turn blue.
Some KNX climate systems require manual switching between heating and cooling and don't do this automatically. For this to work from HomeKit you can use the "Heating/cooling mode" setting. This setting shows up in HomeKit when long pressing the thermostat icon in the Home app and then go to "Mode" at the bottom of the screen. When this setting isn't used the "Mode" will be set to "Auto" and Thinka expects the KNX climate system to switch between heating and cooling automatically.
The last available setting is "Operating mode". This enables the HomeKit option to set the Thermostat to "Off" from the "Mode" menu. For most KNX climate systems this means the system is switched from "Comfort" to "Building protect" and prevents freezing or overheating the system.
A Trade Fair is always exhausting, but so worth it. We gained new contacts, impressions and a lot of insights.
The number of visitors and positive reactions at the Thinka stand where overwhelming.
Thank you all for who have visited us.
We are already looking forward to Light + Building 2020.
Top entrepreneur and ALS patient Bernard Muller uses Thinka to control his home. Thinka connects Apple's voice assistant Siri to KNX. Bernard is now able to move around his house again without the need for help from other people. His whole home can be controlled via voice, from curtains up to his in-house elevator! This gives him mental and physical freedom.
This case is nominated for the prestigious KNX People’s Choice Award.
Please help us promote this case by voting for Bernard and Siri for KNX.
Three good reasons to do so:
HOW TO VOTE:
Thank you for your help!
Michael Franken - CEO & Founder Thinka
Mike van der Hulst - CEO Domoticom & Founder Thinka
Bernard Muller - Founder project MinE
Yesterday, the Amazon Alexa app could finally be used in the Netherlands! Ordering the Amazon Echo speaker was not possible, but from today onwards you can! Have a look at this article on Tweakers
The first 100 Thinkas are on their way to their new owners and we can't wait to hear how Alexa is getting on in her new KNX home(s).
☑️ Software ☑️ Assembly
☑️ PCB ☑️ Packaging
We have received all the parts to build a (Amazon Echo) Thinka.
Next week we'll perform our last tests and start packaging:
☑️ Software ◽️ Assembly
☑️ PCB ◽️ Packaging
Getting real close now!
We just received our new casing from China. Soon we will start building Thinkas!
We have completed development of Amazon Echo support. Amazon Echo is available in the UK and Germany and is becoming more and more popular
We are offering Amazon Echo support for free.
We have made good progress and are about to finalise all custom hardware.
The production of the custom Thinka case has begun, starting with making the mould.
The casing wil be grey with a red bottom.
Hope you'll like it.
Prepare your Thinka using this video instruction. It shows how to upload a new ETS project and edit the results to get your accessories ready.
Have fun watching our first video!
The first early adopters have received their Thinkas. We have shipped the first batch on May 31st.
Next international shipment is expected to ship June 10th.
The Thinka box has arrived together with the setup guide. Exiting times for Thinka and her early adopters.
Thinka is almost ready to be shipped...
At the end of April the first Thinkas will be on their way. This is an exciting moment for us and a great step forward in the area of home and building automation. Below, a brief Thinka update.
Plug & Play
Thinka has two kinds of clients. One is the KNX system integrator and the other is the end-user. For both Thinka is striving for the best user experience and a seamless onboarding process. This means a lot of testing and adjusting with real clients. For the KNX system integrator it is important to see, recognize and manage all items of the KNX system and get it ready to use for the end-user. For the end-user it is important to understand how the app works and how they can get the most out of it. We have received some great feedback from our real-world tests that is helping us improve the Thinka experience for everyone.
From 24-28 May 2016 The Netherlands will be the place where every startup in the world wants to be. It is a four day marathon of matchmaking between startups, investors, developers and corporates. Fourteen regional innovation hubs will host world class events on specialised topics.
See also: startupfesteurope
Thinka is one of the selected startups to join the opening event.
Very exciting, especially with this great speakers around: