Apple Unveils HomeKit Home Automation Protocol and Everyone Shrugs
Apple's HomeKit protocol may make adding smart home devices to your iPhone easier.
June 02, 2014 by Grant Clauser

Today at Apple’s WWDC, the company gave proof to last week’s speculation that it was entering the home automation or smart home category. Last week details were thin, leading to a lot of speculation about what home automation system or products Apple would announce. Today Apple didn’t do a whole lot to clear up that speculation, except now the system has a name, HomeKit.

Apple HomeKit isn’t a new home automation hub, a smart home device or even a kit. It’s a protocol built into the new iOS 8 that allows iPhones and iPads to communicate wirelessly with smart home devices like Hue wireless light bulbs, Honeywell smart thermostats, Kwikset smart locks and more.

Hold on a moment. That’s already possible, right? Well, yes, which is what makes Apple’s move into home automation a little underwhelming.  Apple’s HomeKit (which may or may not be a separate app) is more like a seal of approval that the device you’re connecting with will work with your iOS mobile device. It apparently does add some extra functionality. For instance you can group devices to create scenes and use Siri to control your connected smart devices via voice control. I assume that HomeKit also adds some interoperability, allowing you to create activities involving multiple devices similar to what the app IFTTT (If This Then That) or a smart home hub (such as SmartThings or Revolv) does now.

Related: What Are Home Automation Scenes?

What makes this a little disappointing is that there doesn’t seem to be much of anything new here, other than a new protocol (which we assume uses Wi-Fi), which the industry really didn’t need anyway. On the other hand, when a company as big as Apple tells the world that home automation is cool, the world listens.

REVIEW: SmartThings Smart Home Control and Automation System

Among the brands Apple said it was working with on HomeKit are Philips Hue, iHome, Sylvania, August, Honeywell, Haier, Schlage, Kwikset and more.

Will smart home products start touting their “Made for HomeKit” logos soon the way audio products boast AirPlay compatibility? Maybe. Apple often makes small-seeming announcements that later get developed into bigger things. HomeKit may be one of those.

REVIEW: Revolv Smart Home Hub

To summarize: Apple is bringing out a new protocol to make selecting and pairing your smart home products easier. Apple’s not really bringing much new to the home automation market. All the functionality (aside from a little Siri magic) relies in the connected devices themselves. I hope that in its attempt to make the market simpler it hasn’t actually made things more complicated. Will all the Zigbee and Z-Wave devices already on the market be left out (probably not because a network hub still keeps those device connect to the smart phone). Will customers walk into their Control4 or Crestron dealer’s shop and ask if their system could be made HomeKit compatible? Will Google’s Nest ever be part of the family? These are all things we look forward to telling you about later.

In the meantime, here are some more great articles about home automation system you can own now:
Inside an AT&T Digital Life Home
What’s the Best Home Control System?
10 Amazing Home Automation Tricks

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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Comments (9) Most recent displayed first.
Posted by Nicky  on  07/01/14  at  03:47 AM

I agree with you natalia but I think both companies are trying to take over each others features like Apple is going to give its users new keyboard which is already in android since it has launched and there are many more things. Both companies are competing with each other but google is far big company than Apple. Other competitor of Apple is Microsoft but in this competition Apple is leading.

Nicky Johnson,

Posted by Natalia  on  07/01/14  at  03:38 AM

Google and Apple both are acquiring technologies. Google also launched Google Car, Google Cardboard etc. Whereas Apple is going to provide personal doctor inside the phone. Both companies are trying to take place wherever they can !

Natalia Suzane,

Posted by red Wimax  on  06/19/14  at  01:44 AM

i never know this thanks for share.

Posted by Paul Webster  on  06/08/14  at  03:29 AM

What Apple have provided so far is a set of developer APIs for use on iOS (control) device.
They have not given any details of their proprietary over-the-air protocol between the control device and the device (or gateway) that is being controlled.
Perhaps those that are building devices and have signed up for the program have had more info - but until that info becomes available it prevents the hobbyist from hacking stuff together.
I did not see any sign of callbacks on significant events unless the control app is in the foreground (eg garage door just opened) or any conditional scripting (garage door just opened and no-one home at the moment so alert) or any “intelligence” (it is 3AM and garage door just opened and it has not opened around this time in last 12 months so serious alert).

Any guess on who will be first with MFi gateway that bridges Apple HomeKit Control Protocol to Zigbee?

Posted by Ha World  on  06/03/14  at  07:58 PM

I see this as nothing but positive for those of us already in the HA industry, as well as for the potential it brings to future consumers.  Integration is solely missing in the DIY market and if it takes someone like Apple to make it so, then I say, so be it! 

Plus they are responding to Microsoft’s recent foray (they opened Sunday) to selling Insteon in their stores built for Windows Mobile 8 phones and to Google and the Nest/Android @ Home (dare I say it).  I am still waiting for Google to open up the Zigbee radio inside the Nest and start shipping Android with Zigbee radios.  So here comes Apple TV and HomeKit. 

I say all the more power, maybe we can finally get some cohesion to this mix and match DIY HA market and maybe get some integrated A/V and infrared controls into the mix as well.  Still can’t get my A/V working with my Z-Wave and Insteon very well, Homeseer is about the only real option I know of for all of them, Smarthings, Revolv and Staples Connect included!  None of them include a/v (Homey is a new one and it has 8 radios + IR so maybe it will) but thats it. 

The HA industry needs a kick in the butt to get the whole spectrum of devices included so we can watch some tv with our lighting controls without jumping through hoops.  Maybe Apple will kickstart things, or at least spur on Microsoft or Google or Samsung to get the ball rolling.  Its time!  Just my opinion.

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