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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Ikea's affordable Trådfri smart plugs that first debuted in November are now able to connect to HomeKit after an update to the Trådfri firmware that was released yesterday. After installing new firmware, Trådfri outlets can be added to the Home app and controlled alongside the rest of your HomeKit products. Ikea sells the Trådfri smart plugs for just $9.99, which is much cheaper than other HomeKit-enabled smart plug options on the market. You will, however, need the accompanying Trådfri Gateway, a $30 hub that is required for all of Ikea's affordable smart home solutions including light bulbs, dimmers, motion sensors, and more. The Trådfri outlets are larger than some other HomeKit-based outlets, but can be used sideways and will only take up a single socket. Multiple Trådfri accessories can be connected to the Trådfri Gateway. You can get the Trådfri smart plugs and the Trådfri Gateway from Ikea. Ikea is rolling out its new software update and it should be available to customers in the U.S. now before expanding to other countries in the near future. (Thanks, Daniel!)

HomeKit-Enabled Eve Energy Strip Now Available for Purchase

Eve, known for its line of HomeKit-compatible smart products, today announced the launch of its latest HomeKit accessory, the Eve Energy Strip. First shown off at CES, the Eve Energy Strip has three HomeKit-connected outlets that can be controlled individually or all at once, so you can make three non-HomeKit products HomeKit-compatible. Eve Energy Strip, which connects to a HomeKit setup over WiFi, is ideal for any non-HomeKit product, allowing whatever is plugged into it to be controlled using the Home app, the Eve app, or Siri voice commands. Along with adding HomeKit controls to existing accessories, Eve Energy Strip is able to track total power consumption and projected cost for running an accessory. Eve Energy Strip features a black matte body with an aluminum frame and a 6.3-foot cable. Eve says the outlets were designed at an optimum angle and with generous spacing so even bulky power supplies can be plugged in without obstructing a second socket. Three white LED buttons at the end of the Energy Strip display the socket's power status and allow for manually turning an accessory on or off. Eve Energy is equipped with protection against power surges, overcurrent, and overvoltage. The Eve Energy Strip can be purchased from the Eve website, from Amazon, or from Best

Hands-On With AirPlay 2 and HomeKit on a Vizio SmartCast TV

Vizio yesterday launched a beta version of its updated Smartcast software, which allows iPhone owners who have a Smartcast-enabled TV to use AirPlay 2 and HomeKit integrations for the first time on a third-party television set. We picked up a compatible Vizio television set (which includes the recent P and M series models at the current time) and were able to take a look at how AirPlay 2 and HomeKit work on a non-Apple device. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. AirPlay 2 support on the Vizio TV lets allows TV shows and movies to be streamed from an iOS device directly to the television, with no Apple TV set-top box required. A movie can be started on the iPhone and AirPlayed right to the TV, with support for 4K HDR and Dolby Vision included. Mirroring a Mac or iOS device screen to the TV is also possible, letting photos, spreadsheets, webpages, documents, games, and more be displayed on the larger display of the television set. We couldn't get this feature working in the beta, but it should be available in the launch version of the software. AirPlay 2 support allows multiple audio sources to play the same content, which means a song can be played on a single television set, multiple television sets, or a Vizio TV and other AirPlay 2-enabled devices like HomePods for whole home audio. AirPlay 2 functionality is linked with HomeKit, so Vizio television sets that support Apple's new protocols will show up right in the Home app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. From the Home app, you can do things like switch inputs, turn the television on

Vizio Launches Beta for Testing AirPlay 2 and HomeKit Functionality on SmartCast-Enabled TVs

Vizio's SmartCast-compatible TVs are gaining AirPlay 2 and HomeKit integration later this year, and ahead of the official release, Vizio has launched a new beta that will allow Vizio customers to test the functionality with compatible Vizio television sets. Vizio earlier this week updated its SmartCast app to add AirPlay 2 beta support, and today, the company began emailing customers who signed up for the beta test to let them know that AirPlay 2 and HomeKit are available in a beta capacity. Signups for Vizio's beta test began back in January, but Vizio TV owners can still sign up to participate through Vizio's Apple webpage. AirPlay 2 integration will allow iOS and Mac users to stream video content, music, photos, and more to SmartCast-enabled Vizio TVs, and with HomeKit integration, the Home app on iOS or Siri voice commands can be used to control the TV. @MacRumors Vizio Airplay 2 beta has begun. pic.twitter.com/KsB4C9P1ta— Vince Scarlata (@VincentScar) April 3, 2019 Official AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support will be coming to Vizio televisions in the summer. Vizio TVs from 2016 and later will support AirPlay 2 and