HomeKit: Everything You Need to Know

The HomeKit ecosystem may seem daunting and confusing if you're unfamiliar with smart home products, their functionality, and their benefits, but getting started is actually simple and straightforward.

Learning the ins and outs of HomeKit after setup does take a bit of effort, but it's not a difficult process and having interlinked electronics that can interact with each other and be automated can save time and really streamline your life.



What is HomeKit?


HomeKit is Apple's smart home platform, which is designed to let you control various internet-connected home devices -- ranging from thermostats and plugs to window blinds, light bulbs, and more -- with Apple devices.

These days, more and more products are internet connected, which is why you've heard the phrase "Internet of Things."

The Internet of Things is a confusing mix of "smart" products that connect to the internet and can be controlled by a range of different platforms, from Amazon's Alexa to Google Home to Samsung SmartThings.

HomeKit is Apple's "Internet of Things" solution that connects HomeKit-enabled smart accessories together in a way that lets you operate them using your Apple products.

What You Can Do With HomeKit


HomeKit isn't a product or software, it's a framework that links smart home products together and adds new capabilities to devices like lights, locks, cameras, thermostats, plugs, and more.

HomeKit lets you control smart home products using apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, or simple Siri voice commands.

While controlling smart home products with ‌Siri‌ or with an ‌iPhone‌ is convenient, the real magic of HomeKit comes when you have multiple HomeKit-enabled products because you can control them all at once using scenes or set up automations so that they activate automatically.


You can, for example, create a "Good night" scene that makes sure the doors are locked, closes the garage, turns off the lights, lowers the thermostat, and then activates a night light whenever motion is detected. With automation, you can set individual HomeKit devices to come on or off at specific times, or you can set entire scenes, like the aforementioned "Good night" scene to come on at a set time.


HomeKit setups, scenes, and automations can be as complex or as simple as you like, and now that HomeKit is in its fifth year of availability, there are all kinds of HomeKit products you can purchase. With a bit of time and some money, you can have a whole smart home ecosystem that's streamlined, automated, and easy to control.

Setting It Up


Getting started with HomeKit is as simple as purchasing a HomeKit-enabled device, whether it be a smart plug, light bulb, AirPlay 2 speaker, Apple TV, HomePod, thermostat, or something else.

From there, open up the "Home" app, which comes pre-installed on all iOS devices. Tap on the "Add Accessory" button that's on the main screen of the Home app, and then follow the steps after it opens up to the rear camera.

All HomeKit products come with a HomeKit QR code on them, which you need to scan with the camera. Scanning the HomeKit code adds a device to the HomeKit framework, and then you can follow a few additional steps to assign it to a room, a necessary step for organizing your HomeKit devices.

How HomeKit Devices Connect


HomeKit devices connect to your HomeKit setup through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or a hub, which connects to Wi-Fi.



Many HomeKit devices in the United States use WiFi or connect to a hub over WiFi. Hue light bulbs, for example, use a hub, while smart lights from other brands like LIFX use WiFi.



There are some devices that connect over Bluetooth, and with Bluetooth devices, it's worth noting that you're going to need home hubs to extend connectivity, otherwise connection range can be rather limited. Home hubs include the ‌Apple TV‌, the ‌iPad‌, and the ‌HomePod‌.



Types of HomeKit Devices


There are all kinds of HomeKit devices on the market, some that are more capable than others. The following HomeKit categories are available:
  • Lights
  • Switches
  • Outlets
  • Thermostats
  • Window Blinds
  • Fans
  • Air Conditioners
  • Humidifiers
  • Air Purifiers
  • Sensors
  • Locks
  • Cameras
  • Doorbells
  • Garage Doors
  • Sprinklers
  • Speakers
  • Receivers
  • TVs
Apple maintains a full list of HomeKit-compatible devices on its website, complete with links, so this is the best place to get an overview of all of the different HomeKit devices that you can put in your home.


Smart home devices that are compatible with HomeKit will have "Works with Apple Homekit" labeling on the packaging to make it clear that they support HomeKit.

Basic HomeKit Setup Tutorials


Using the Home App


Setting Up Remote Access


‌HomePod‌ and ‌AirPlay‌ 2


HomeKit Requirements


Using HomeKit requires an ‌iPhone‌, ‌iPad‌, or iPod touch running the latest version of iOS, along with at least one HomeKit-enabled device.

Using the Home app on the Mac requires macOS Mojave, and to control devices when away from home, an ‌Apple TV‌, ‌iPad‌, or ‌HomePod‌ is required to serve as a Home Hub.

Ways to Control Your HomeKit Devices


The great thing about HomeKit is the myriad ways that you can control your HomeKit compatible devices.

You can use ‌Siri‌ voice commands on the ‌iPhone‌, ‌iPad‌, ‌iPod touch‌, Mac, Apple Watch, ‌HomePod‌, or ‌Apple TV‌ to ask ‌Siri‌ to complete HomeKit tasks.

Devices can be controlled manually in the Home app, or in the app that comes with the device. Each HomeKit device will have an app downloadable from the iOS App Store that offers a way to control it.

You can also purchase HomeKit-enabled button-type devices that serve as remotes to activate HomeKit scenes physically, and there are switches for controlling HomeKit products such as lights.

Reviews of HomeKit Accessories


Lights


Sensors


Buttons/Remotes/Switches


Locks


Cameras


Thermostats


Plugs and Outlets


Miscellaneous



Security and Privacy


Security and privacy are topics that Apple takes seriously, and thus every manufacturer that creates a HomeKit-compatible device has to follow Apple's security guidelines, better ensuring your devices are safe from hackers.

Apple's commitment to privacy and demand that HomeKit products be secure is reassuring at a time when our homes are filled with smart devices that can hear us and see us.

For a long time, Apple required all HomeKit products to include a hardware-based HomeKit authentication coprocessor for HomeKit certification, and many HomeKit devices continue to offer this. In 2017, Apple began allowing manufacturers to obtain HomeKit certification with software-based authentication, but HomeKit is no less secure as a result.

All HomeKit devices use the same security features, including end-to-end encryption, non-reusable encryption keys, and two-way authentication (Apple verifies your HomeKit device and your HomeKit device verifies your Apple device) when connecting to a HomeKit setup.

A HomeKit camera, for example, sends video and audio streams directly to an iOS device and those streams are encrypted using randomly generated keys to prevent someone from intercepting your video feed.

All HomeKit data stored on your devices is fully encrypted, and HomeKit syncing between devices is done via iCloud and ‌iCloud‌ Keychain, both of which have their own security. Apple also must approve each and every device that gets the HomeKit labeling. In a nutshell, Apple has worked to make HomeKit a secure smart home platform that people can trust.

HomeKit is not without its bugs, though, and there have been some security snafus. In December 2017, there was a bug that left HomeKit accessories vulnerable to unauthorized access, but Apple was quick to fix it.

For those interested, the nitty gritty details about HomeKit security are available in Apple's iOS Security Guide and are well worth checking out if you have security concerns about using smart home devices. [PDF]

Solving HomeKit Connectivity Problems


When using HomeKit devices, you might sometimes see an error that a device is unreachable in the Home app or have other problems connecting to a HomeKit product.

The Home app, and most HomeKit apps that accompany HomeKit products, provide very little info on why a HomeKit product isn't working properly or connecting to your network, which can make troubleshooting HomeKit issues frustrating.

There are a few basic steps you can follow that will sometimes solve connectivity issues.
  1. Make sure the HomeKit device has power, is turned on, and is in range of your router if it's a Wi-Fi device.
  2. Turn the HomeKit device off, wait a good 10 seconds, and turn it back on. Do the same thing with your ‌iPhone‌ or other device you're attempting to use with HomeKit.
  3. Check the Wi-Fi connection and reset your router. Make sure your iOS device is up to date, connected to the internet, and that you're signed into ‌iCloud‌.
  4. Make sure your HomeKit device is on the right Wi-Fi band. There are a lot of HomeKit devices that are 2.4GHz while most devices connect to 5GHz networks, and that can sometimes cause problems. If you have a 2.4GHz accessory, make sure it's on the 2.4GHz network. Steps for this will vary based on your setup.
  5. Remove the device from HomeKit in the Home app and then re-add it by scanning it. For some HomeKit products, this is probably a last resort step because it eliminates scenes and automations.
  6. Remove the device from HomeKit and reset it. This is a step that's necessary when removing some HomeKit devices from a HomeKit setup. You're going to need to consult the manual of your device because resetting is different on every product.
If none of these steps work, you're going to want to contact the support staff for whichever product you're having problems with to get further information on what to do for troubleshooting purposes.

Many HomeKit manufacturers have online troubleshooting databases, so in some cases, you can just Google for a solution.

There are more drastic steps to take, such as logging in and out of ‌iCloud‌ or resetting your entire HomeKit setup, but we recommend contacting a manufacturer before trying these last resort options just because of the hassle involved.

Discuss HomeKit


Have a setup question or a HomeKit issue you just can't figure out? You might want to check out the HomeKit forums on the MacRumors site for additional help. There are quite a few HomeKit users on the forums, and most people are happy to help.

Guide Feedback


Want to offer feedback on this guide, ask for feature additions, or point out an error? Send us an email here.


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Apple has released an open-source version of its HomeKit Accessory Development Kit (ADK), following news that it is joining a new industry effort to create an open standard for smart home devices. On Wednesday, Apple, Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance announced the formation of a new working group that plans to develop and promote the adoption of a new IP-based connectivity standard for smart home products, with a focus on increased compatibility, security, and simplified development for manufacturers. In a news post on its developer website, Apple said the release of the open-source HomeKit ADK is designed to accelerate development of the new universal smart home standard: To accelerate the development of the new universal standard, Apple is open-sourcing portions of its HomeKit Accessory Development Kit (ADK). HomeKit has grown to become the most extensive, powerful and secure smart home platform available on more than a billion iOS and iPadOS devices. Built from the ground up to protect customer data, HomeKit and the Home app use innovative privacy technologies and techniques to help minimize the amount of data anyone — including Apple — can access as well as powerful security features that protect personal information. By open-sourcing its HomeKit technology, Apple will be helping to jump-start the initiative and ultimately deliver an even better experience to customers.The release of the ADK means anyone can start developing non-commercial smart home accessories and even build HomeKit devices for their own home, while accessory manufacturers can use it

Apple, Amazon, Google, and Zigbee Alliance to Develop Open Standard for Smart Home Devices [Updated]

Apple, Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance today announced a new working group that plans to develop and promote the adoption of a new IP-based connectivity standard for smart home products, with a focus on increased compatibility, security, and simplified development for manufacturers. Zigbee Alliance board member companies such as IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify, Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian will also contribute to the project. The so-called "Project Connected Home over IP" aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and others by defining a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. The new standard will incorporate existing smart home technologies, such as Apple's HomeKit and Google's Weave and Thread:We're contributing two of our market-tested and open-source smart home technologies, Weave and Thread. Both are built on IP and have been integrated into millions of homes around the world. Weave, an application protocol, works over many networks like Thread, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, and even cellular. Even when devices are on different networks, Weave allows them all to securely work with each other.The new connectivity standard will be open source and royalty free, with code to be maintained on GitHub. The working group has a goal to release a draft specification and a preliminary reference implementation in late 2020. For consumers, this should

ConnectSense Launches HomeKit-Enabled Smart In-Wall Outlet

ConnectSense, known for its line of HomeKit-enabled home automation products, today announced the launch of its new Smart In-Wall Outlet. The Smart In-Wall Outlet is HomeKit-compatible and allows accessories that are plugged in to it to be controlled with Siri voice commands and the Home app. Precise power monitoring is also included, so you can see how much power an electronic or an appliance is using with real-time voltage data available. Each outlet can be controlled individually and remotely, which means power can be shut off when a device isn't in use to save energy. ConnectSense's Smart In-Wall Outlet connects to a home's WiFi setup, and it has built-in capacitive touch buttons. Built-in plug detection senses when an item is plugged in, and the buttons can be locked when the outlet isn't in use, for childproofing purposes. There are 15 Amp and 20 Amp options, and ConnectSense says that the Smart In-Wall Outlet is easy to install and operate both in homes and in professional environments like office buildings and airports. The ConnectSense Smart In-Wall Outlet is priced at $79 and $99 for the 15A and 20A options, respectively, and can be purchased starting today from the ConnectSense website.

Sony Smart TV Software Update Brings AirPlay 2 and HomeKit Support to Select 2018 and 2019 Models

Sony has begun rolling out a software update for some of its smart TVs that enables AirPlay 2 and Apple HomeKit support, including its XBR Z9F and XBR A9F series of 4K and 4K OLED TVs. Earlier this year, Sony announced that AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support would come to some of its mid-range and high-end smart TVs by way of a software update. This Android 9 Pie update makes good on that promise, and also includes Dolby Atmos support. The update is available for the 2018 A9F and Z9F models as well as the 2019 A9G, Z9G, X950G, and X850G (55, 65, 75, 85-inch). TV tech site FlatpanelsHD notes that the 2018 A9F and Z9F models weren't listed as compatible models in Sony's original announcement, but they've since been included. AirPlay 2 support will allow users to stream videos, music, photos, and more directly from an iPhone, iPad, and Mac to compatible Sony smart TVs, complete with lock screen controls. HomeKit support will enable users to easily control the TVs using Siri voice commands or the Home app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. The software update is available in the United States, Canada, and Latin America. There's no word yet on the availability of the update in Europe and elsewhere, but presumably Sony plans to extend the staggered rollout beyond these regions. To update the Android-based software, you need to press the HELP button on the remote control and select "System software update." If you don't see the update, enable the "Automatically check for update" option, and a notification will appear on your TV when the update is available. Samsung, LG,