HomeKit is Apple's framework for home automation: It's what manufacturers use to integrate their products — lights, speakers, thermostats, plugs, sensors, locks, and more — with Apple's iPhone, iPod, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and HomePod. Thanks to HomeKit, these accessories can be more secure, easier to use, and best of all, triggered with Siri.
So why is it called "HomeKit"?
It follows Apple's other "Kit" name-schemes, combining "Home" (for home automation) with "Kit" (short for software developers kit, or SDK). Thus, HomeKit.
How does HomeKit work?
It's pretty cool. Using the Home app or a HomeKit-compatible app, you set up Homes and Rooms that can contain your various accessories. Then you set up scenes and automations to control those accessories. The result is a powerful, flexible system for controlling everything from a single light bulb to your entire connected house, all from your iOS device, HomePod or Siri.
Why do we need HomeKit? Don't home automation accessories already work with the iPhone using third-party apps?
Many do, but without HomeKit, those accessories had to build custom solutions that were often incompatible with their brethren, with varying degrees of security. This means that your smart lights can't talk to your thermostat, nor can both of them hook up to a unified service that controls everything at once — you have to jump around and change them each manually in-app. HomeKit accessories not only are able to talk to each other in the Home app, but you'll be able to communicate with all of them using Siri.
Wait, HomeKit accessories can use Siri?
Yup! Once you've set up your accessories, you can say things like "turn on the lights in the kitchen" to see what you're cooking, or "good night!" to turn off your entire home. We personally love to set up "movie mode" for lights, speakers, and TV, and "crash the compound!" to shut everything down. For some additional ideas on what you can say to Siri for home control, take a look at the list that we have compiled below.
So the Home app is what makes it all compatible?
Kinda. The Home app works as a unified interface and has full touch controls. So, you can do everything you need to do right from within the app. With Siri, however, you can control everything from everywhere using just your voice.
Once you have an accessory set up in the Home app, you can control it with Siri. Set up multiple accessories, and you can control them all with Siri, too. As such, once your home automation devices are activated, you can use third-party apps if you want or need to with just a few taps. But you can use Siri with just the sound of your voice.
What makes HomeKit more secure?
At its code core, HomeKit enforces end-to-end encryption between all accessories and iOS device, making them all more secure. That way, no third party can intercept or spoof your communications to try and take control of your home automation or steal any data.
How does Apple ensure that any HomeKit-branded accessories use the company's security framework?
Any accessory-maker that wants to develop HomeKit accessories has to join Apple's Made for iPhone (MFI) certification program, which requires the use of HomeKit's security system.
How does the MFI program work?
When an accessory maker wants to certify their product with Apple and receive MFI approval, the company first has to submit its plans.
Next, it submits a prototype, wherein Apple checks all the application programming interfaces (API) that the device implements, along with how it integrates HomeKit and its security aspects.
Apple also makes sure that the accessory's associated third-party app meets the App Store's stringent requirements.
If those steps go well and the prototype is approved, the accessory can then go into production.
Apple also provides MFI logos on any certified device's packaging, acknowledging that it's gone through the MFI process and been certified for compatibility and security.
Lastly, the Apple makes sure the final products and apps match the prototype that was approved, and then everything ships, including the App Store companion apps.
How long has HomeKit been around?
HomeKit was actually first announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference — WWDC — in 2014. It was introduced by senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, and shown off on the keynote stage. The first MFI-certified devices for HomeKit hit stores a year later.
What took it so long to come out?
All that MFI stuff. HomeKit was announced in 2014 and Apple started taking MFI submissions from manufacturers that fall. Manufacturers showed off some prototype products at CES in 2015, and the very first wave of those products starting shipping in the summer. All told, the process took about a year — including the time needed for the first-generation software and hardware to shake out, and to make sure both security and Siri integration were working as they should.
What HomeKit products are available now?
Since HomeKit has been around for a number of years now, there are tons of devices available in stores. Some of our favorites include the Philips Hue line of lighting products as well as Lutron Caseta in-wall switches. Check out the links below for our list of the best HomeKit products available.
- The Best HomeKit Accessories
- Best HomeKit Accessories for Renters
- Best HomeKit Garage Door Openers
- Best Smart Light Switches for HomeKit
- Best HomeKit Motion Sensors
- Best Smart Plugs for HomeKit
What kind of accessories are available?
HomeKit supports many different accessory types and add more with each version of iOS. Here's the current list of supported devices according to Apple's HomeKit accessories page.
- Contact sensors
- Alarm systems
- Smart plugs
- Light switches
- Light bulbs
- Temperature sensors
- Air purifiers
- Air conditioners
- Light strips
- Garage door openers
- Motion sensors
- Air quality sensors
- Humidity sensors
If I already own some smart home devices, will they magically update to HomeKit?
Maybe. This has to do with the security requirements of HomeKit and the MFI testing process. Some devices which did not ship with HomeKit support in mind may be able to be added to HomeKit if they connect to a bridge or hub. An example of this is Philips Hue light bulbs which connect using Zigbee technology to the Philips Hue bridge. The bulbs themselves were not made with HomeKit compatible specifications, but the bridge can be added to HomeKit. Apple also has a software based HomeKit authentication program that can add HomeKit support to devices that do not connect to a bridge. This method has allowed devices such as the Wemo Mini smart plug to add HomeKit compatibility after it was already on the market.
What about support for (this accessory)? I want HomeKit in my home now!
Stay tuned! As we said above, device manufacturers can add HomeKit through software authentication or through a bridge. However, it is best not to assume that HomeKit will be added after you purchase unless the manufacturer has let its intentions known, and even then it may not be added for a while. If you want to ensure HomeKit compatibility, make sure that you only purchase products that have the "Works with HomeKit" logo on its packaging.
How do I set up my HomeKit accessories?
Setting up your HomeKit accessories is easy. Simply open up the Home app, tap your way to add accessory, and then scan your HomeKit device code. Moments later, your device will be ready for control through the app or Siri. Want specific steps on how to add accessories? We got you covered in our guide.
What does HomeKit work with? Just iPhone?
More! HomeKit currently works with any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that can run iOS 8.1. (The most recent version of iOS, of course, would be best). You can also control HomeKit accessories through the Home app on an Apple Watch, and via Siri on Apple TV (4th generation or later) and the HomePod.
Is there a Home app for the Apple TV?
Not currently. However, you can control your HomeKit accessories and scenes via Siri on an Apple TV 4th generation or later using the Siri Remote. There are also some third-party HomeKit apps available on the Apple TV that can display feeds from HomeKit cameras, and of course, can toggle devices on and off through a visual interace.
Do I need an Apple TV for remote access?
Possibly, depending on your accessory. Some accessories have their own cloud based infastructure set up to facilitate controlling devices through their own app. However, accessories that connect directly to HomeKit via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi may require a HomeKit hub for remote access. HomeKit hubs include Apple TV 3rd generation or later, iPad, and the HomePod. Once one of these devices are set up as your HomeKit hub, you will be able to send commands via the Home app or Siri from anywhere in the world. For a more in-depth look at how an Apple TV works as a HomeKit hub, take a look at the following guide.
Does HomeKit work with the Apple Watch?
It sure does! You can use the Home app directly on an Apple Watch, and you can use Siri voice commands if your watch is running WatchOS 2 or later. Check out our guide below for more information on HomeKit and the Apple Watch.
Can I set a schedule for accessories or make my lights turn on when I pass by a motion sensor?
Yes! Through the Home app, you can set schedules based on time or a particular part of day such as sunset. You can also set up your devices to automatically turn on or off using location geo-fencing. For more complex actions, such as turning on a light when a motion sensor detects motion, you can create automations. For more on automations and how to set them up, check out our guide below.
Can I share access to my HomeKit accessories with friends and family?
You certainly can! Allowing others to access your HomeKit accessories is as simple as sending them an invite to your home through the Home app. Once they have accepted your invite, you can set limits to when they can access your devices and if they can remove or edit accessories. Check out our guide to using the Home app to invite others and controlling their permissions below.
I need some help with my HomeKit accessories!
Don't worry, most HomeKit troubles are easy to fix, and require just a few taps to reconnect or reset. We have covered the most common issues in our handy guide, take a look if you need help.
Any other questions?
Have a question about HomeKit that we didn't answer? Holler in the comments.
Updated August 2019: Updated for iOS 12.
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