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What is HomeKit / Apple Home?

Along with several other new APIs for developers, Apple announced HomeKit in June 2014, which allows all home automation accessories/devices to work together in harmony with iOS. The API allows home automation developers to centralize all home automation without needing separate apps to access each device’s specific features. These devices include locks, lights, cameras, doors, thermostats, plugs, switches, and more.

HomeKit allows for secure pairing with devices and the ability to control individual devices. It also makes it possible to group several home automation devices into scenes that allow for easier control of any automation device in specific situations. One of the coolest features available with HomeKit is the ability to control any home automation accessory with Siri based on certain commands or scenes previously configured with these devices.

In 2016, Apple introduced a new Home app that came with a modern look, relatively easy-to-use controls, and access to accessories and scenes from anywhere on iOS 10. Apple’s new built-in Home app arrived on the iPhone’s Home screen, plus you can access a ton of functions from the Lock screen or anywhere on iOS from the new Control Center once you have a HomeKit accessory set up.

In 2018, Apple released the HomePod. It was a way to interact with your connected home devices through Siri using a standalone device.

In 2020, Apple announced that tvOS 14 would gain access to the Home app. iOS 14 is also bringing improvement to the Home app UI.

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HomeKit Secure Video

With iOS 13, Apple announced HomeKit Secure Video.

Footage from home security cameras contains your most personal and sensitive data. With HomeKit Secure Video, activity detected by supported cameras is privately analyzed by your home hub using on‑device intelligence to determine if people, pets, or cars are present. When important activity is detected, you and anyone you share your Home app with will receive a rich notification that lets you view the clip right from the Lock Screen. Recorded video is available to view for ten days from the Home app. It’s securely stored for free in supported iCloud accounts and doesn’t count against your storage limit.

While the rollout has been slow, Logitech, Arlo, Netatmo, and Eufy are among the early standouts. With recent privacy issues with Ring, HomeKit Secure Video is likely to continue to grow in popularity. One key benefit with Secure Video is that it works with your existing iCloud storage (200GB and up plan), so you don’t have an extra monthly fee for storage.

HomeKit Router

HomeKit Router was also announced with iOS 13, but it wasn’t released until early 2020. The idea behind the feature is you can give granular control to smart home enabled devices to control where on the internet they can reach.

eero was the first company to roll out support in for HomeKit Router.

With Apple HomeKit, eero gives you even more protection of your HomeKit accessories and an easy way to manage what they are allowed to communicate with in your home and through the internet.

There are three levels of security Apple offers for accessories paired with HomeKit routers:

  • Restrict to Home: Most secure. Your accessory can interact only with HomeKit through your Apple devices. The accessory won’t connect to the Internet or any local devices, so any third-party services, like firmware updates, might be blocked.
  • Automatic: Default security. Your accessory can communicate with HomeKit and connections recommended by its manufacturer.
  • No Restriction: Least secure. This setting bypasses the secure router and allows your accessory to interact with any device in your network or Internet-based service.

How Do You Use HomeKit?

Homekit app

HomeKit devices can be controlled from iPad, iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch, and HomePod. A 4th generation Apple TV (or newer) is an essential Apple smart home device as it acts as a bridge over iCloud to allow access to your devices when away from home.

9to5Mac’s Bradley Chambers does a regular column about the “Apple Home” lifestyle in his HomeKit Weekly column.

Popular Reviews

HomeKit Weekly: Aqara E1 camera delivers HomeKit Secure Video in a compact package

Aqara E1

HomeKit Secure Video is either a great solution or a terrible solution, depending on who you ask and depending on the day. No, it’s not perfect, but I do trust it. It’s the only camera recording solution I’d ever allow inside my home. I’ve recently been testing Aqara’s new E1 camera, which includes HomeKit Secure Video support.

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UK HomeKit: Tado offers a solid smart home thermostat ecosystem that works with iPhone

The Tado Smart Thermostat system is one of a few options available for United Kingdom home owners looking to upgrade their heating to smart home control. I’ve been using it for almost a year, and I’m generally very happy with it.

The Tado system is composed of a central controller, an internet bridge to connect to HomeKit, and optional radiator valves to control heating on a per-room basis.

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HomeKit Weekly: The benefits of HomeKit when traveling for an extended period

Back in September, my wife and I spent a few weeks traveling through Scotland and London. It was an amazing time, and I highly recommend both places. Since our home was empty for long periods outside of family visiting to check on the house (I am always paranoid about a random leak, etc.), no one was in the home. With HomeKit, I was able to create automations to simulate the appearance that we were home through lights, shades, and more.

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The best ways to add HomeKit support to your garage door in 2023

Upgrading your HomeKit lifestyle with a smart garage door is one of the best changes you can make. For a long time, MyQ was an easy recommendation for people looking to easily turn their existing garage door into a HomeKit garage door. Chamberlin, the company behind the MyQ platform, discontinued its HomeKit accessory last year and recently even further cracked down on access to the MyQ platform.

Thankfully, there are other ways to bring HomeKit capability to your garage door without too much work. Here are some of my favorites…

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Chamberlain myQ smart garage door opener blocks Homebridge and more, to display ads

Chamberlain myQ smart garage door opener blocks third-party apps

The Chamberlain myQ smart garage door opener is now blocking access by Homebridge, Home Assistant, and other third-party apps. It follows the company last year discontinuing the myQ Home Bridge Hub, which made the door opener HomeKit compatible.

The motivation for the move appears to be to force people to use Chamberlain’s own app, so that they will be exposed to the ads run in it …

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HomeKit Weekly: The Humelle humidifier brings Thread support and plenty of customization options

humelle humidifier

Last year, we moved into a house we’d built from the ground up. One of the things that was different from my previous house was the type of heat. Instead of a heat pump, we moved over to natural gas. It’s my second time having gas heat, and there’s one thing I had forgotten – how dry it was. Now, gas heat is certainly much warmer; especially when it gets really cold, I just prefer gas heat. Well, I do, but my nose doesn’t. The more it runs, the dryer my nose gets. The Humelle humidifier from Airversa is now my go-to solution for a HomeKit-enabled humidifier for bedrooms.

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Review: Eve Motion, the best HomeKit motion sensor

Eve Motion sensor

After embracing HomeKit in a big way starting in 2022, and testing several motion sensors in the intervening months, my recommendation for best HomeKit motion sensor is the Eve Motion.

The Eve Motion sensor connects directly to the Home app on your iPhone, triggers HomeKit automations quickly in response to motion events, and has a very reliable connection in my experience of many months of real world use.

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HomeKit Weekly: Smart bulbs vs. smart outlet adaptors – which is best for HomeKit?

smart bulbs

Smart lighting is one of the foundational aspects of a smart home. In fact, I would argue it’s likely the most common aspect of almost every smart home. There’s something magical about having lighting turn on and off via your voice, on a schedule, or based on motion. Outside of smart shades, it’s what you’ll see in movies in the richest of mansions as well. Thanks to low-cost items, anyone can have the luxury of smart lightning. The question I often get is which is best for lamps and other types of lightning outside of overheard lights – smart bulbs vs smart outlet adaptors?

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Matter support for home appliances: Fridges, washing machines, dishwashers, and more

Matter support for home appliances | Modern kitchen

Matter support for home appliances is on the way, through the latest version of the smart home connectivity standard backed by Apple and more than 600 other companies.

Previous versions of Matter have been limited to smaller smart home devices, like lights, door locks, blinds, and security sensors – while Matter 1.2 will add support for household appliances, robot cleaners, and more …

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HomeKit Weekly: Onvis Smart Button remote makes HomeKit products easy to use for guests and children

Onvis Smart button

Back in the summer, my family went out of town for a few days. We had a dog sitter come by a few times a day to take our dogs on walks as well as take them to the bathroom. One challenge I had was showing her how to use our smart home. For our Level Lock+, I found it easier just to give her a key because there is no easy way to share a Home Key with someone outside of your iCloud family account. While I can share access to our lights, I find it much easier to use a product like the Onvis Smart Button instead.

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Review: Ecobee’s first Smart Doorbell Camera ties together HomeKit and unique thermostat integration

Ecobee Smart Doorbell Camera Review

After releasing its first indoor HomeKit camera in 2021, smart thermostat leader Ecobee is out today with its first outdoor product – the Smart Doorbell Camera. With a sharp design, HomeKit support, wide-angle view, and unique integrations with its Smart Thermostat Premium, follow along for our full review.

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HomeKit Weekly: New Onvis Smart Plug checks all the boxes with Matter and Thread

Onvis Smart Plug

There are two things I want to see in every new smart home product: Matter and Thread. Matter lets me know that I’ll have access to the product regardless of which platform I use in the future. Thread lets me know that it’s going to work extremely well in my home in terms of responsiveness. The new Onvis Smart Plug checks all those boxes, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite smart plugs.

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Feature request: Let me snapshot my smart home to auto-create a scene

Snapshot my smart home | Contemporary home at dusk

The vast majority of my smart home control comprises asking Siri to activate a scene – or having one automatically triggered by a time or event. For example, when going to bed, a single command switches on low lighting in the bedroom while switching off all other lights in the home.

Most of these scenes are created from scratch, thinking about exactly what I want to happen in particular circumstances – but there’s another approach I’d like to be able to take …

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HomeKit Weekly: HOLOMARQ smart door knob brings the HomeKit experience to interior doors

HOLOMARQ Smart Door Knob

2023 has seen some exciting announcements and releases around HomeKit door locks. With Home Key, Level Lock+, and the Aqara doorbell, it’s been an exciting year. These door locks have been focused around exterior doors, though. The HOLOMARQ Smart Door Knob is a new interior door option for HomeKit that provides some unique use cases.

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HomeKit Weekly: AiDot OREiN emerges as a Matter-focused light bulb vendor for a vendor-neutral smart home

OREiN bulbs

I know some of you aren’t bullish on Matter. Is it perfect? No. Does it need more features to truly become the vendor-neutral smart home specification? Yes. I believe in it, though. I believe in it because every manufacturer wins with Matter. When customers know that your products can work across every platform, like Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, they’re more likely to buy your products. I recently picked up the OREiN light bulbs from AiDot to put its Matter certification through the paces to see how easy it is.

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HomeKit Weekly: Sylvania delivers a HomeKit smart plug at the lowest cost possible

Sylvania Smart Bluetooth Outlet

Inflation is certainly affecting everyone. It’s laughable what some things have increased in price in the past few years. I’ve been testing a HomeKit plug that, thankfully, is somehow the lowest-cost plug I’ve seen on the market. The Sylvania Smart Bluetooth Outlet adaptor is the only plug I’ve seen at this price in all my years of covering smart home technology.

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Grid Forecast in Home app shows when you can use clean energy

Grid Forecast in Home app

iOS 16 last year introduced a Clean Energy feature, which lets you set your iPhone to charge during times when your local energy grid is using carbon-neutral electricity. In iOS 17, a new Grid Forecast feature takes a first pass at expanding this capability to any device in your home.

Grid Forecast shows up in the Home app, and shows a prediction of when your energy provider will be generating electricity from carbon-neutral sources like solar and wind …

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HomeKit Weekly: SmartWings releases the first Matter enabled shades that work with HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant

Smartwings Shades Matter

Earlier this year, I had a chance to use the SmartWings shades that were designed to work with HomeKit. I’ve really enjoyed using them, and it truly has made my home feel like something out of the Jetsons. About a month ago, I received another shipment from SmartWings that included a new pair of shades that includes, for the first time in a smart shade product, Matter support.

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HomeKit Weekly: Umbrel Home becomes a must-have box for smart home fans looking to own more of their data

Umbrel Home

I’ve been using Umbrel at home for the last year and a half. Previously, I used a Raspberry Pi 4 to power my Umbrel server, but I recently upgraded to the new Umbrel Home, which includes everything prebuilt and ready to go. 2023 has been the year when I’ve really been thinking hard about where my data is, which companies have access to it, and how I can better control my costs. After spending a few weeks with Umbrel Home, I completely recommend it as a streamlined smart home hub for Homebridge while also allowing you to build your own personal cloud.

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