Apple HomeKit ecosystem

It’s about a year since Apple announced HomeKit.  I’ve found it hard to get a good handle on where Apple was going with it.   Info has been sketchy, although the developers know far more than I.

But things are starting to happen.  While there were announcements back at the CES show in January, of companies announcing they would be supporting HomeKit, it’s just recently we have started to see announcements for specific products.

Rumors called for HomeKit to be rolled out this month – June.  I hope they are right.

So far I haven’t done much research into the rumors.  I’m hoping that many of the pieces of the puzzle will become visible shortly.  Meantime, my big question has been:

What Does Apple’s HomeKit bring to the party?

As would be typical for Apple, it seems they aren’t inventing something new, just trying to figure out how to make something that already exists easier to use, or more palatable, by tying in the right elements (not necessarily every capability at once), but something that covers most of the key bases, and works well.  Or so it seems to me.

As such, it sounds like AppleKit will support Wifi and Bluetooth LE (and), and at least to some degree Z-wave and Zigbee via bridges talking to their controllers.  Those two standards are very big in the DIY and value  categories of home automation.  Products like the (now) Google Nest thermostat, and Philips Hue color RGB lights, are Z-wave and Zigbee respectively.  My house has many Z-wave wall dimming light switches, and outlets that are Z-wave.

I use a number of different apps, five regularly.  Even sitting down in my theater and deciding to turn off the theater lights requires going to the main screen on my iPhone, tapping the app, tapping the light to go off.

Honestly, it’s a little clunky having multiple apps.  And even if I could reduce that to one layered app, touch is still going to be clunky.

When I first wrote about our doing a Dream Home where we keep adding additional products, and update on the experience, I had said that I hoped that a lot of it could be voice controlled by the time the two year project was completed.

To me voice recognition  is the first, and perhaps the most important thing Apple is doing:

Siri integration!  Home Automation needs to be either voice or gesture based.  Tapping iPhones repeatedly isn’t ideal. Talking to an Apple Watch, or other device, on the other hand will be much more convenient..

HomeKit would be worthwhile to me if it did nothing else but let me say things like “Turn off Theater lights” or “Set Living Room lighting to scene 2”.  Or “Start the coffee,” or “Lock all the doors.”

I’ve already got a talking – and listening thermostat.  It’s not near as smart as Siri, but some times it’s really nice to simply say “Hello thermostat.  Please make it 2 degrees warmer.”

How HomeKit ties everything together is a big question.  Will we be able to use Siri only with some types of gear, say Wifi, but not Z-wave?  There are a lot of ifs.

Ultimately though, I expect Apple will do a good job of making people think of using smart home automation as something that’s desirable to do, and NOT Complicated!

So, with the countdown on to HomeKit, I thought I should catch you up on some recent announcements (below).

I see HomeKit as a potential game changer, perhaps as great as iPods and iPhones.  We shall see.  Certainly SmarterHomeAutomation will spend a lot of time following and reporting on HomeKit and the products that support it – and that it supports.  Stay tuned for more.

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Apple TV, long abused as a “hobby” for it’s limited revenue contribution to the Apple Inc. juggernaut, will integrate with HomeKit.  Newer gen models will apparently will act as a hub to allow remote control of HomeKit enabled devices from outside the home.  It will provide IFTTT type interfacing (IFTTT being a protocol that home automation systems use to to talk to home networks remotely).  I’m talking about controlling those door locks, light switches, thermostats, etc.  It will use events.

As mentioned, several companies have announced products.  They include Lutron who is making their Caseta line of lighting compatible.  There’s mention of a starter kit with a bridge (controller), two dimmable light switches, and two small pedestals to place them on if you aren’t wall mounting them.  I’ve spoken with Lutron at recent shows, about bringing in the Caseta for review, but now that it will support HomeKit, they become a bigger priority.

The other biggest name would be Philips with their Hue lighting.  Philips announced this past week that they would be supporting HomeKit this fall.  Existing Philips Hue products will be upgradeable for compatibility.  No word yet on Belkin’s WeMo

Other companies that have announced products include Insteon and iHome.  Also Ecobee maker of smart thermostats, and Elgato maker of home sensors monitoring air quality,  door and window sensors and others.

This article is I am pleased to say, the first one I’ve written on this site.  Some previously written articles and reviews have been moved here from our other site, but this is my first try at the new site and its WordPress interface.  I haven’t figured out a lot of it yet, but I think I have the basics.  I’ll try out our media players in my next attempt.  Welcome to the brand new -art

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