The Home Kit Framework – Details on Apple’s Home Automation Protocol

Apple Home Kit Logo

When Automated Home launched in 1996 there were only a handful of smart home systems out there – and none of them worked together. But things have moved on. Now there are literally hundreds of home automation systems – which don’t work with each other.

Each week seems to produce another Kickstarter smart home system. It seems everyone in the industry wants to invent their own wheel.

We’ve often wondered over the years what might happen if Apple were to bring their famed user experience to the smart home world.

Well wonder no more.  At the WWDC Keynote earlier today apple announced “HomeKit” is coming in iOS 8 this Autumn and from their preliminary documentation we can determined the following.

HomeKit is a new framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices in a user’s home. Apps can enable users to discover devices in their home and configure them, or you can create actions to control those devices. Users can group actions together and trigger them using Siri.

So rather than merely providing the touchscreen interface to our smart homes, Apple will effectively make your iOS device the home automation hub in your setup.

The i-word is important here.  It’s not iOS or iPhone, it’s iNTEGRATION…

Home Kit provides seamless integration between accessories that support Apple’s Home Automation Protocol and iOS devices, allowing for new advances in home automation. By promoting a common protocol for home automation devices and making a public API available for configuring and communicating with those devices, Home Kit makes possible a marketplace where the app a user controls their home with doesn’t have to be created by the vendor who made their home automation accessories, and where home automation accessories from multiple vendors can all be integrated into a single coherent whole without those vendors having to coordinate directly with each other.

The docs reveal that Home Kit includes major features like ‘Discovery’ and that it will allow third-party apps to perform three major functions..

1. Discover accessories and add them to a persistent, cross-device home configuration database.
2. Display, edit, and act upon the data in the home configuration database.
3. Communicate with configured accessories and services to get them to perform actions, such as turning on the lights in the living room.

Control via Siri is another major feature here.  In the past entire PCs along with mixers and networks of microphones around homes have been devoted to try and create what can be done so much better these days on a smartphone.

For example, you can tell Siri you are “going to bed” and it could dim the lights, lock your doors, close the garage door and set the thermostat.

According to the developer docs the HomeKit data hierarchy looks like this

Homes (HMHome) are the top level container, and represent a structure that a user would generally consider to be a single home. Users might have multiple homes that are far apart, such as a primary home and a vacation home. Or they might have two homes that are close together, but that they consider different homes—for example, a main home and a guest cottage on the same property.

Apple Home Kit Philips HueRooms (HMRoom) are optional parts of homes, and represent individual rooms in the home. Rooms don’t have any physical characteristics—size, location, etc. They’re simply names that are meaningful to the user, such as “living room” or “kitchen”. Meaningful room names enable commands like, “Siri, turn on the kitchen lights.”

Accessories (HMAccessory) are installed into homes and assigned to rooms. These are the actual physical home automation devices, such as a garage door opener. If the user doesn’t configure any rooms, Home Kit assigns accessories to a special default room for the home.

Services (HMService) are the actual services provided by an accessory. Accessories have both user-controllable services, like a light, and services that are for their own use, like a firmware update service. Home Kit is most concerned with user-controllable services. A single accessory may have more than one user-controllable service. For example, most garage door openers have a service for opening and closing the door, and another service for the light on the garage door opener.

Zones (HMZone) are optional groupings of rooms in a home. “Upstairs” and “downstairs” would be represented by zones. Zones are completely optional—rooms don’t need to be in a zone. By adding rooms to a zone, the user is able to give commands to Siri such as, “Siri, turn on all of the lights downstairs.”

Apple Home Automation Partners

We look forward to learning more about HomeKit over the coming weeks and months as well as seeing what new hardware partnerships Apple comes up with.  Is it possible that Apple’s clout could finally be enough to get an entire industry behind a common protocol?

Or will the walled garden and lack of support for other OS’s mean it will just be another standard to add the many that have gone before?  Let us know what you think in the comments below.

apple.com

Want More? – Follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, or subscribe to our RSS feed. You can even get these news stories delivered via email, straight to your inbox every day.

6 Responses to “The Home Kit Framework – Details on Apple’s Home Automation Protocol”

  1. Looks amazing! I hope the wifiplug I bought works and I can integrate with Honeywell too! “Siri light up my house”

  2. I very much doubt anything that is currently on the market will be compatible. Apple appear to be planning to get their revenue from HomeKit using their ‘MFI’ licensing scheme. Probably licensees will be required to use Apple’s server infrastructure (hopefully with rigorous enforcement of authentication & encryption) rather than WiFiPlug’s existing server somewhere in China.

  3. Its going to be all about the bridges – the hardware that will connect Apple’s HomeKit to the existing home automation protocols; Z-Wave, KNX, X10, Cbus etc

    As yet – I can’t seem to find any information about the Apple HomeKit hardware protocol – only the details of the software side of things…

  4. I see Tado Inc have pledged to support it with there new cooling product see http://www.tado.com/gb/press/releases/tado-homekit-integration

  5. Interrestingly, in iOS 8, siri is listening all the time the phone is plugged in and charging. If you say ‘Hey Siri’, you will get the usual beep and can ask a question.

    This opens up even more home automation posibilities, with having an iOs device perm plugged in within a room.

  6. Iain – Yes noticed that too. Similar to the ‘OK Google Now’ thing but without the hardware to listen without killing the battery – perhaps coming in iPhone 6?