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.