iOS 10 HomeKit keeps homes safe and smart

Apple’s HomeKit wants to be as safe as houses

HomeKit is a glass of water in the desert for the connected home. You see, despite the hype many of the connected home products rushed to market in the first wave lacked standards and security support and made people’s lives less safe even while they promised so much.

Realizing the dream

From weak passwords that users could not easily, if at all, change to untrammelled data collection or insecure wireless communications, many of those first connected home devices really weren’t fit for use.

This is what Apple is changing with iOS 10 and HomeKit. One of the most critical ways it has achieved that is by introducing a certification process that prioritizes compatibility and security across all accepted devices.

It took a while to convince manufacturers to come aboard, but it represents a big contribution from Apple to an industry easily characterized as consisting of multiple non-cooperative standards and weak security protocols. Apple wants its smart home kit to be safe as houses (it even has designs to use its tech to keep houses safe).

What this means is that achievement of HomeKit certification is a good signal to help consumers tell the difference between real solutions providers and cowboys.

What is a HomeKit mark?

So what does it mean when you see it? Over 70 manufacturers now carry “Works With Apple HomeKit” kite marks on at least one product. When you see it you know the manufacturer has met Apple’s high standards of privacy and security, including hardware encryption. You also know that a fully HomeKit compatible app is available to control nearly everything about the device. It is also a given that you can enrol the device into your HomeKit system by using your iPhone to scan a card you’ll find in the product’s box.

You see, HomeKit acts can be seen as a kind of glue that enables different systems from different manufacturers to work effectively together. Incidentally, I believe this is Apple’s vision for the future of iOS, to provide software that enables different products and industries to interoperate securely. If it works in the phone, what can it do in the factory or on the farm?

The iOS 10 HomeKit app

Available with iOS 10, Apple’s Home app controls all your connected devices. It is designed to help all of them work together, solving a problem in which such devices exist in different siloes and need to be controlled by dozens of different apps.

The app combines your devices into three main sections: Rooms, Scenes and Automations. You can easily access all the devices in your home, or gather them all into different Rooms (Front room, Bedroom), Scenes (Movie night, Good Night) or Automations.

The latter is really interesting as it enables you to use Location data on your iPhone to make things happen at home automatically – perhaps you want the heating and lighting to be one by the time you return home from work, or the front door to open for you as you walk up the path to your home.

The HomeKit app also integrates 3D Touch support – select a device icon and use this to adjust brightness or other appropriate criteria. Not only this, but you can also use Siri to control your HomeKit devices, and an Apple TV Siri Remote if you can’t find your phone. That’s right – everything in your home now works together – you can even use your Apple Watch to control your home.

The home hub

In order for HomeKit devices to work together they must all be on the same Wi-Fi network or within Bluetooth range, this includes the controllers. This means that in order to control your HomeKit systems remotely you must also install an Apple TV or iPad to act as the home hub (we had expected this in 2015). This then becomes a master device that controls the others and is in turn controlled by you and your iOS devices outside the home. You definitely need to set this up for some Automations.

Build your own

You may also soon find a “Works With Apple HomeKit” mark on new homes. Brookfield Residential, KP, and Lennar plan to build homes that integrate the standard. They read the same reports, such as that from Markets and Markets that predicts the smart home market will be worth $121.7bn by 2022. They read these and they think consumers will want homes pre-populated with connected systems, from windows to door locks and beyond.

Will you be using HomeKit to connect your home, or does the thought of a connected home leave you cold? Let us know in comments below.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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