The best products for building a smart home with Apple’s HomeKit

“Apple’s introduction of HomeKit in iOS 8 two years ago was in many ways what we had been waiting for in the home automation world — a unifying framework that would signal a departure from the proprietary apps, devices, and ecosystems that we’d all come to know, and would take us into a place where we can build out smart homes from a collection of the best accessories available from a wide variety of vendors,” Jesse Hollington writes for iLounge.

“It’s been a long road from HomeKit’s initial debut, with many accessory makers taking a while to get on board, and Apple being slow to add support for new types of devices, and new capabilities,” Hollington writes. “With iOS 10, however, the HomeKit ecosystem is finally maturing, with Apple’s own Home app, support for a wealth of new devices and automations, and a critical mass of accessories that users can now work with.”

“However, with dozens of HomeKit-compatible accessories now availble to equip your home, where do you start? What are the areas you should be looking at and what are the best products?” Hollington writes. “To help you get started, we’ve gone through our collection of HomeKit accessory reviews and singled out our top choices for you across the five most significant home automation categories.”

Covered in the full article:

• Best Outlet — Incipio CommandKit Wireless Smart Outlet
• Best Lighting Solution — Lutron Caséta Wireless
• Best Thermostat — ecobee3
• Best Door Lock — August Smart Lock
• Best Sensors — Elgato Eve Room & Weather

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Remember: HomeKit for security.

How automated is your home? Have you gone beyond a smart thermostat, yet?

SEE ALSO:
DDoS attack: Apple’s HomeKit for a safer smarthome – October 24, 2016
Honeywell unveils Apple HomeKit-compatible Lyric T5 Wi-Fi thermostat – September 27, 2016
Google’s flaky Nest thermostat shakes users’ trust in the Internet of Things – January 19, 2016
Google’s Nest thermostat bug leaves users cold, angry – January 14, 2016
Honeywell announces ‘Lyric Round’ smart thermostat with Apple HomeKit integration – January 5, 2016
Apple HomeKit-compatible thermostat Ecobee closes in on Google’s Nest – September 28, 2015
Apple pulls Google’s Nest thermostat from stores with launch of HomeKit-compatible Ecobee 3 – July 23, 2015
First Apple-certified HomeKit-compliant devices launch – June 2, 2015
Google engineer trashes Tony Fadell’s precious Nest smoke alarm – February 19, 2015
With HomeKit and Honeywell’s Lyric, a Nest acquisition by Apple would have been foolish – June 18, 2014
Will Apple’s Internet of Things vision hurt a beautiful idea? With HomeKit, Apple promises easy home automation – June 6, 2014
Smart thermostat war heats up as Apple-partner Honeywell takes aim at Google’s Nest – June 13, 2014
Honeywell takes dead aim at Google’s Nest with new iPhone-compatible Lyric smart thermostat – June 10, 2014
Google to SEC: We could serve ads on thermostats, refrigerators, car dashboards, and more – May 21, 2014
Dead to me: Apple’s Schiller ‘unfollows’ Tony Fadell and Nest after Google acquisition – January 18, 2014

20 Comments

  1. After you read reviews of Thermostat, Door Lock and Weather products on Amazon…they all seem barely capable and inconsistent… IOWs…not quite ready yet…which is a bummer as they seem to have good potential..

    1. I have the EcoBee3 thermostat, about 50 Philips Hue bulbs with the 2.0 bridge, and a Schlage Sense homekit smart lock.

      I am in love with all of them. They work flawlessly, and I’ve grown so accustomed to the automation, that when I upgraded to an iPhone 7, I did something weird in HomeKit and the lights weren’t auto turning off when I left for work.

      I fixed it right away, but when I got home and saw all my lights on still, I was shocked that they hadn’t managed themselves in my absence. The thought of that in itself made me chuckle. I laughed at how “normal” it felt that the door locks and lights should manage themselves without my input.

      I don’t know if I’m describing this correctly, but the feeling is a bit akin to me owning my first iPhone. I remember how blown away I was that I was surfing the web on my phone. Now, I’m pissed when I have to go use a “real computer” because a website isn’t playing nicely on my phone browser.

      That’s how HomeKit feels for me already. I was shocked that it hadn’t worked perfectly (and as I say, it was a phone upgrade/user error), and that made me laugh that I have grown so quickly used to the fact that I down’t turn lights on or off, or lock/unlock doors, or change thermostats.

      In my guesstimation, most of the poor equipment reviews are from people that are having issues with firewalls not passing HomeKit info properly, or the fact that it’s not widely known that your need to have a gen 3 or higher AppleTV to get a lot of HomeKit devices like my front Door lock to work through the internet. (the door lock is bluetooth only, the AppleTv needs to be in 30 foot range to enable internet HomeKit access, and it’s just not obvious how it all works at first).

  2. As I have posted here before, I bought property at Point Roberts, Washington and I live in the Metro near Memphis, Tennessee and the place is about 2400 miles away. I have been watching HomeKit with interest as I intend to build a home on the property that I will use ultimately as my home when I retire. Being able to watch- and control- the place while I am away is a big deal.

    What has me concerned is Apple’s long track record of abandoning software using proprietary protocols out of the blue just because it is a day of the week ending in “y”. That and the fact that many of it’s newer stuff seems to be in eternal beta- for a long time every point update of iOS 9 would break HomeKit remote access. The transition from iOS9 to 10 and the similar updates of tvOS were less than smooth.

    Next, Apple does not allow users to integrate other protocols into HomeKit and does not support mac OS. There is a picture on 9to5 Mac today that shows Tim Cook sitting at his desk with an iMac clearly in the background and him using a damn iPad with a keyboard. That tells me he gives not a shit about the Mac and makes me wonder if they will just let it wither away.

    Home Automation is not like buying a phone. The implications of failure could be significant, reliability is paramount and replacement costs could be significant. What happens if you invest a ton into HomeKit and Apple decides to abandon the protocols and leaves you stuck with unsupported stuff that you cannot migrate to other hardware and software? This is exactly why so many enterprise IT people dislike Apple.

    So far I have only used the Eve Weather and Inside monitor HW, but intend to have a fairly sophisticated setup when I build. I do not want to be on vacation in Germany and have the system fail to note a flood from a broken pipe, a runaway HVAC from a failed Thermostat, a missed break in, etc. I also do not want a false alarm. Likewise, I want to be able to remotely let a neighbor in if something needs to be done while I am away- remote lock/unlock needs to be secure.

    I want Apple to build an App or protocol that integrates all the various technologies so that I can incorporate the best in class stuff or work with others to build in HomeKit support. I do not see that yet- but we do have Balloons and Fireworks in Messages. Someone needs to kick Tim Cook’s ass and get his priorities straight.

    Our home is usually our biggest investment and it is filled with our stuff and anchors our families. Half-baked, half assed attempts will not carry the day.

    1. It’s not Apple’s job to build security into HomeKit compatible devices MADE BY OTHER COMPANIES.

      APPLE DOESN’T CONTROL THE TRANSMITTERS OR TRANSMISSION PROTOCOLS IN THESE DEVICES; it just makes a framework to allow different devices to communicate in a compatible system of systems.

      The companies building these hardware devices can’t even spell “security.”

      “Based on an exploit for the ZigBee Light Link Touchlink system, white hat hackers were able to remotely control the Hue lights via drone and cause them to blink S-O-S in Morse code. The drone carried out the attack from more than a thousand feet away.”
      https://tech.slashdot.org/story/16/11/09/0041201/researchers-hack-philips-hue-smart-bulbs-using-a-drone

      A little searching will find similar vulnerabilities and exploits for smart locks, thermostats, etc., ALL OUTSIDE APPLE’S CONTROL!

      I strongly recommend that any buyer of HomeKit compatible devices heavily research the security (of woeful lack thereof) of each device they are considering buying and let the manufacturers of such devices know that their security efforts are terrible!

      And place the blame for poor HomeKit device security where it belongs – on the device manufacturers’ heads, not Apple’s!

    2. I have a lot of sympathy with you but you seem to be criticising the slowness of the build up of Homekit when one presumes that relative slowness is, to a very great extent to for the very reason so as to try to avoid many of those problems you foresee should things not be worked out right from the beginning. Indeed it is only in reading your contribution that I began to understand the full implications and why it seems to have developed so relatively slowly. Speed and particularly in the expansion of its capabilities would surely create the very problems, errors, safety and glitches (particularly in reliability and security) you are worried about.

      1. I appreciate careful, but Apple is not putting the muscle behind it. This area of tech is going to be huge and they would be well advised to stop designing balloons for Messages and start recruiting partners for Home Automation.

  3. Just spent an hour trying to get Apple TV 4th gen to be a HomeKit hub. Following all Apple’s directions. Restarting countless times, logging out of iCloud and back in on AppleTV and iPhone. After Nth time it started working. WTF Apple, this is was one of the worst experiences I had with Apple products. Apple support forums are full of the same descriptions. Lame, lame.
    Using with August Smart Lock – it is a great product but:
    – requires changes of 4 AA batteries every couple of months
    – I don’t trust auto lock/unlock after leaving the house unlocked one time (need to try again after later firmware update)

    1. Forgot to add about August Smart Lock:
      – if you want to grant access to a guest, that guest needs to download August app and fully register with august: email, confirmations, etc. Long and complex process. Wish there was a simple way to generate one-time use key to send to someone. Plus my contractor’s Android crapphone could not unlock it with its non-compliant Bluetooth version. I wasted too much time and finally gave up and handed my contractor a physical key…

      1. I have no personal experience with the August smart lock, but I did a SH*T-TON of research on my door lock before I bought it. Waaaaay more research than I did on my lighting to be sure (Philips Hue).

        I spent about 3 months researching the:
        -August
        -Kwikset Kevo
        -Schalge Sense (not connect, the one usually on the shelves everywhere)

        In the end the Schlage seemed the best to me, and it hasn’t let me down. I’ve had it for over 6 months. Not an insane amount of time, but definitely long enough to know if the system is terrible. In that six months, the 4 double A batteries are reporting 81% still. And that is with 3 firmware updates which I suspect actually take a fair bit of the battery life (they can take 20 minutes solid of BT communications).

        Anyhow, the point of my post reply is just to say that if you have to give up on August, maybe check out the Schlage Sense. I’ve found the normal Key / Numeric Keypad / Bluetooth / HomeKit combo to be awesome.

        1. Let me elaborate about adding guest codes etc.

          -You do it right from the app, and can do it remotely.
          -You make them numeric codes (for use on the keypad)
          -can be any length from 4 to i think 20 digits,
          -you assign a name to the code, and the lock logs all entires
          -you can set times that the code works. i.e. M and W only, from 4-7pm.

          There is a limit of 20 codes (I’m assuming to keep apartment building from using residential tech to avoid paying for the industrial priced stuff).

    2. Something I learned with my AppleTV 4th gen and Schlage Sense smart lock… you need to set the AppleTV to NEVER SLEEP. No one mentions that, but if it sleeps you lose internet access to your lock.

  4. The thing is that most of this stuff is incredibly expensive for only a minor increase in convenience. Being able to turn a socket on from somewhere else, nice, but most of my stuff is either on all the time, or if it’s a light will either be on a timer, or something I just turn on once a day. There’s nothing I’m constantly having to get up and down to do that this is saving me from having to do. If I was building a house and could include stuff built in at a reasonable cost it would be better, but most of these products aren’t serving any real desperate need.

  5. I had reasonable success with the ConnectSense outlet but often it will lose connection. So a lamp either doesn’t turn on or won’t turn off. I sent an email to the manufacturer but got nothing back.
    It’s hard to know if this is a problem with the unit software (both units I have fail at the same time) or the Home system.
    I will try the incipio outlet to see if that is anymore reliable.

  6. Seems like a strange list. I’m Home-kitting my new home and I’m making much different choices than what’s on that list.
    -The thermostats all seem pretty similar. I like the look of the Honeywell Lyric the most, so I went with that (also got the flood detector for my laundry room). NB: the ecobee looks cool in pics, looks kind of tacky up close.
    -the clear choice in door locks seems to me to be the shlage locks. has everything you would need, including key backup if it runs out of battery (and break-in detection for lock picking – although it is vary vague on how this is done).
    -lutron doesn’t have colored light bulbs, which is a deal breaker, so I guess I’ll be going with phillips hue
    -I’m planning to get the Serena automatic window shades
    -and ffs I don’t know why there is a need for environmental sensors in every room. I think I’ll survive somehow with my one lyric.

    1. Forgot to mention:
      -I have the ring doorbell cam, which is really great so far
      -I also got the arlo (netgear) wireless security cams which seem to work well. But if you’re putting them outside you may need a wifi extender (I do).

    2. I’m with you, the Schlage Sense is the best lock as far as I can tell.

      I have the EcoBee3, and I love it. Truth be told, you’ll never look at the thermostat display again. You’ll use Siri or the iOS app, or the web interface (which is AWESOME).

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