HomeKit FAQ: Everything you need to know

Cupertino, March 9, 2020

HomeKit FAQ Everything you need to know

HomeKit is Apple's home automation framework: it's what users use to integrate their products - lights, speakers, thermostats, sockets, sensors, locks and more - with iPhone, iPod, iPad, Mac, Apple TV and HomePod. Thanks to HomeKit, these accessories can be safer, easier to use and, best of all, they are triggered with Siri.

So why is it called "HomeKit"?

The other "Kit" name schemes follow, combining "Home" (for home automation) with "Kit" (short for software developer kit or SDK). Thus, HomeKit.

How does HomeKit work?

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It's pretty cool. Using the Home app or a HomeKit compatible app, configure Homes and Rooms that can contain various accessories. Then set up scenes and automation to control those accessories. The result is a powerful, flexible system for controlling everything from a single bulb to the entire connected home, all on your iOS, HomePod or Siri device.

Want all the details? Read our full explainer HomeKit!

Why do we need HomeKit? Do home automation accessories already work with iPhone using third-party applications?

Many do, but without HomeKit, these accessories had to create custom solutions that were often incompatible with their siblings, with varying degrees of security. This means that your smart lights can't talk to your thermostat or connect to a unified service that controls everything at the same time - you have to manually jump and change them in the app. Not only are HomeKit accessories capable of talking to each other in the Home app, but you'll be able to communicate with everyone using Siri.

Wait, can HomeKit accessories use Siri?

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Yes! After 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 stop your whole house. We personally like to set the "movie mode" for lights, speakers and TV and "block the compound!" to close everything. For some more ideas on what you can say for Siri for home control, take a look at the list I have compiled below.

How to use Siri with HomeKit accessories

So is the Home app what makes everything compatible?

Somewhat. The Home app works as a unified interface and has full touch controls. So you can do everything you need to do even from the app. With Siri, however, you can control everything from anywhere using just the voice.

Once you've set up an accessory in the Home app, you can control it with Siri. Configure multiple accessories and you can control them all with Siri. As such, once home automation devices are enabled, you can use third-party applications if you want or need just a few clicks. But you can only use Siri with the sound of your voice.

How to use Siri with HomeKit accessories

What makes HomeKit safer?

At its core, HomeKit implements end-to-end encryption between all accessories and the iOS device, making them more secure. This way, no third party can intercept or spoil your communications to try to take control of your home automation or steal data.

How does Apple ensure that any HomeKit accessory uses the company's security framework?

Any accessory manufacturer that wants to develop HomeKit accessories must join Apple's Made for iPhone (MFI) certification program, which requires the use of the HomeKit security system.

How does the MFI program work?

When an accessory manufacturer wants to certify its product with Apple and receive MFI approval, the company must first present its plans.

Next, it features a prototype, in which Apple checks all the application programming interfaces (APIs) that the device implements, along with how HomeKit integrates with its security aspects.

Apple also ensures that the associated third-party accessory application meets the strict requirements of the App Store.

If these steps go well and the prototype is approved, the accessory can go into production.

Apple also provides MFI logos on any certified device's packaging, recognizing that it has gone through the MFI process and has been certified for compatibility and security.

Finally, Apple makes sure that the final products and applications match the approved prototype, and then everything is delivered, including the accompanying apps from the App Store.

How long has HomeKit been around?

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HomeKit was actually first announced at the Apple World Developers Conference - WWDC - in 2014. It was introduced by senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi and featured on the main stage. The first MFI certified devices for HomeKit accessed the stores a year later.

What took so long to appear?

All that MFI stuff. HomeKit was announced in 2014, and Apple has started taking MFI communications from falling manufacturers. The manufacturers presented some prototype products at CES in 2015 and the first wave of these products starting in the summer. However, the process took about a year - including the time required to shake off first-generation software and hardware and to ensure that Siri security and integration work properly.

What HomeKit products are available now?

Since HomeKit has been around for a few years, there are stores available in stores. Some of our favorites include the Philips Hue lighting product line as well as the Lutron Cassette wall switches. Check out the links below for our list of the best HomeKit products available.

What kind of accessories are available?

HomeKit FAQ Everything you need to know

HomeKit supports many different types of accessories and adds more with each version of iOS. Here is the current list of supported devices according to the Apple HomeKit Accessory page.

  • louver
  • Contact sensors
  • Alarm systems
  • Smart plugs
  • Light switches
  • sprinklers
  • Lamps
  • Temperature sensors
  • lamps
  • speakers
  • Televisions
  • Locks
  • Air purifiers
  • fans
  • Air conditioning
  • Light strips
  • Showers
  • buttons
  • Garage door openers
  • diffusers
  • humidifiers
  • Movement sensors
  • Air quality sensors
  • Humidity sensors
  • receivers
  • thermostats
  • Photo cameras
  • Sounders

If they already have some smart home devices, will they magically upgrade to HomeKit?

May be. This is related to the HomeKit security requirements and the MFI testing process. Some devices that have not been delivered with HomeKit support can be added to HomeKit if they connect to a bridge or hub. An example of this is the Philips Hue bulbs that connect using Zigbee technology to the Philips Hue bridge. The bulbs themselves were not made to HomeKit compliant specifications, but the bridge can be added to HomeKit. Apple also has an authentication program based on HomeKit software that can add HomeKit support to devices that do not connect to a bridge. This method allowed devices such as the Wemo Mini smart jack to add HomeKit compatibility after it was already on the market.

What about support for (this accessory)? I want HomeKit in my house now!

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Stay tuned! As I said above, device manufacturers can add HomeKit by software authentication or via a bridge. However, it is best not to assume that HomeKit will be added after you purchase, unless the manufacturer has announced its intentions, and even then it may not be added for a period. If you want to ensure HomeKit compatibility, make sure you purchase only products that have the "Works with HomeKit" logo on its packaging.

How do I configure my HomeKit accessories?

Setting up HomeKit accessories is easy. Simply open the Home app, tap on how to add the accessory, and then scan your HomeKit device code. A while later, your device will be ready for application control or Siri. Do you want specific steps to add accessories? I covered you in our guide.

How to configure HomeKit accessories

What does HomeKit work for? IPhone only?

More! HomeKit currently works with any iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that can run iOS 8.1. (The latest version of iOS, of course, would be the 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 HomePod.

Is there a Home app for Apple TV?

Not now. However, you can control HomeKit accessories and scenes via Siri on a 4th generation Apple TV or later using the Siri remote control. There are also some third-party HomeKit applications available on Apple TV that can display streams from HomeKit cameras and, of course, switch and turn off devices through visual interaction.

Do I need an Apple TV for remote access?

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Depending on your accessory, some accessories may have their own cloud-based infrastructure configured to facilitate device control through their own application. However, accessories that connect directly to HomeKit via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi may require a HomeKit hub for remote access. HomeKit centers include 3rd generation Apple TV or later, iPad and HomePod. Once one of these devices is configured as the HomeKit hub, you can send orders through the Home or Siri app 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.

Everything you need to know about Apple TV and HomeKit

Does HomeKit work with Apple Watch?

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Of course! 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. See our guide below for more information on HomeKit and Apple Watch.

How to use the Home app on Apple Watch

Can I set a program for accessories or turn on my lights when I pass a motion sensor?

Yes! With the Home app, you can set programs based on time or a certain part of the day, such as sunset. You can also configure your devices to automatically turn on or off using location geo-fences. For more complex actions, such as turning on a light when a motion sensor detects movement, you can create automation. For more on automation and how to configure it, see our guide below.

How to create automation and scenes in iOS Home

Can I share access to HomeKit accessories with friends and family?

You certainly can! Allowing other people to access your HomeKit accessories is as simple as sending an invitation to your home through the Home app. Once they've accepted your invitation, you can set limits on when they can access your devices and whether they can remove or edit accessories. Check out our Home user guide to invite others and control the permissions below.

How to add users to your HomeKit home

I need help with my HomeKit accessories!

Don't worry, most HomeKit problems are easy to remedy and require a few clicks to reconnect or reset. We've covered the most common issues in our helpful guide, take a look if you need help.

How to fix HomeKit accessories

Other questions?

Do you have a question about HomeKit that I didn't answer? Holler in the comments.



Updated August 2019: Updated for iOS 12.

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