Apple’s smart home play is based around HomeKit, one of the most secure but more expensive protocols for vendors to add to their products. That’s why it is mostly premium products that come with HomeKit support, but the advantages are often worth it.
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Why Get on the HomeKit Compatible List?
The vendors need a license to deploy the HomeKit software framework, which lets an iPhone or Apple TV device recognize, communicate and control their smart-home appliances. The main advantage of HomeKit is that communication is encrypted which helps secure both the communication over the Internet and the device itself from being hacked.
With so many scare stories about smart home intrusion, cameras being hacked or data monitored, it is easy to see why many companies would value the added security that HomeKit brings even if it is at extra cost to the customer. Then again, since Apple users tend to be among the higher demographics, perhaps there is the perception that they can afford all these higher-end smart home products.
For the end user, all that technology and security is pretty much invisible, with people more focused on a smart and simple way to use smart home technology. An additional benefit is that most products can be controlled through voice commands via Apple’s smart assistant Siri. HomeKit works based on rooms, so learns what device are where and can create themes or coordinated interactions between them.
The new Home app in iOS 10 makes controlling all this possible with an iPhone, and if you have an Apple TV then you can control everything remotely with the black box acting as a smart home hub. The key benefit of using the one Home app is you don’t need to have a dozen different apps for a dozen different smart home products. So, when you’re ready to go all-in on HomeKit, what are the best devices to get?
#1 Philips Hue (2nd Generation)
Smart lighting is one of the most popular smart home products, and the market leader is Philips Hue and its range of bright, subtle colored bulbs. The second generation Philips Hue Bridge hub adds HomeKit support for Siri control and easier management via an iPhone or iPad. Philips offers a huge range of lights from strips to tap switches and Hue Go spot lights.
The Hue Hub Bridge supports up to 50 lights, which can be controlled as themes or individually using the Home app or Philip’s own iOS app. If you think the Philips range is too expensive then the Lutron Smart Bridge and Lighting Kits are also HomeKit compatible and cost a little less.
#2 August Smart Lock (2nd Generation)
Coming home is rarely an elegant matter, with people struggling with shopping, luggage, children, babies, whatever. The new HomeKit-compatible August Smart Lock makes it that little bit easier as it can either detect your iPhone via Bluetooth as you approach, or even smarter you can use an Apple Watch to unlock the door.
You can also use Home to see access alerts or a log of when the lock has been activated. For now you still need the August Connect accessory if you want to unlock the door remotely, but it would be a cool feature in HomeKit could let you do that too in the near future.
The other smart lock compatible with HomeKit is the Schlage Sense deadbolt. If you forgot to lock the door when you went out, and you have the Apple TV, then you can say “Siri, lock the front door”, and that command will work anywhere – and only your voice can trigger it.
Full Review: Read it here.
#3 Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat (2nd Generation)
Market leader Nest won’t likely ever support HomeKit as Apple and Google don’t exactly get on at the best of times. So, if you want a HomeKit compatible smart thermostat the recently updated third-generation Ecobee is the device for you.
Ecobee also comes with remote sensors to help monitor the temperature and environment around the home, so you can better manage your heating or air conditioning settings. Being able to control it with Siri is one of the advantages of HomeKit support and no one will be hacking this thermostat. Note that the Ecobee3 plays both sides of the fence and is also Alexa compatible, to give you the choice of who to shout at to turn the temperature up or down.
Honeywell’s Lyric 5 smart thermostats are also HomeKit compatible if you’d rather go with that brand. They offer pretty much the same service, but Ecobee’s remote sensors might give it the edge in larger properties.
Full Review: Read it here.
#4 Fibaro Sensor Suite
Fibaro’s range of sensors, including its Door and Window Sensor, Flood Sensor and Motion Sensors can all be controlled with HomeKit devices. The motion sensor, the one with the spooky eye detail, and flood sensor are particularly useful when it comes to home protection, and while HomeKit really doesn’t add much functionality, making them accessible in the Home app allows users to create rules and themes to trigger actions when an alarm is set off.
Full Review: Read more here.
#5 ConnectSense Smart Outlet
We all have a few dumb devices that we’d like to control smartly and the ConnectSense outlets let us do that with HomeKit support. Featuring two sockets, you can plug in a dumb device, and when the time comes, use Siri to trigger the socket to start a washing machine, turn on a TV set, or set the microwave off, whatever it is you want to control.
Users can monitor power usage through the plug and can control the two sockets separately, there’s also a USB port to charge your iPhone through when you’re home.
Compared to the 6,000 plus Amazon Alexa compatible devices, HomeKit is lagging behind pretty badly, but most smart home products have an iOS app, so its not like Apple users are missing out.
At the recent CES show, a few new products were on display. They included Yale’s Real Living Assure Locks and NexTouch Wireless Locks for added front door security. Netatmo’s Smart Smoke Detector to round out the range of home protection devices you can use with HomeKit. Outside the home, Chamberlain’s Smart Garage Hub will also soon be granted HomeKit compatibility to make opening the garage with Siri totally secure.
Other brands soon to be adopting HomeKit include Withings, LiFX and a few others, pretty much most premium brands will be likely to add support at some point, unless they are a direct competitor to Apple. Don’t expect many crowd-funded smart home products to add it, as that will be a major extra cost in most cases.
For a complete list of products that work with HomeKit, check out this Apple resource. More devices are becoming HomeKit compatible, but Apple is in a battle with Amazon and Alexa which is easier and less costly for developers to integrate into the products, so expect a major battle to take place between them in future devices.