The Limitations of HomeKit

It would be a great idea for Apple to push HomeKit to Mac OS.

This is one of those features that they’ll eventually get to, in a few years, where people will ask why it was not done sooner.

Right now, the $1,300 Siri in my Mac has no idea how to turn on the kitchen lights, even though the Siri on my phone can. What gives, Apple?

To put a bit of perspective into this, there is an antiquated home automation system called X10 which operates devices with special sockets through your house’s wiring system. It was developed in the 70s. In the 80s, you could use your IBM PC, with the help of software and certain hardware, to control (and automate) your home. In the 90s, you had voice control.

https://youtu.be/pm33KB2Th9M

Apple is making a wise decision to introduce the HomePod. They saw how the Alexa speakers did music and were not impressed – they wanted something better. It was a logical step, but they still need to do more than this. They need a Mac app.

My initial thought was that Apple could replace the node.js-based Homebridge with a Mac app supporting extensions. However, the way Apple has changed browser extensions on Safari, I don’t see how they could replace Homebridge any time soon. You need to be a developer to make Apple extensions now, and open source code does not jive with the Apple Store terms of service.

At the latest WWDC in July 2017, Apple suggested software upgrades for authentication in non-HomeKit devices that have already shipped and can’t get additional hardware. They are also going full speed in creating an infrastructure for developers to make, test, and license new devices to work within HomeKit. They probably envision a world where all home accessories sold work with HomeKit, but that simply does not exist now.

The early adopting problem is a major downside of the Apple ecosystem. Only the most expensive accessories now work in the advanced areas within HomeKit. Apple Pay, for example, works in many stores some years later after launch, but Samsung Pay works in all. Their devices can send a magnetic strip code through their phones to a card reader in a store.

HomeKit compatible devices utilize encryption, and are authorized by Apple. Any attempt for Apple to legitimize third party devices through open source code would be going against their own standards. Nevertheless, Homebridge has flourished. Those with the technical know-how to work with it have done home automation on the cheap in amazing ways with their existing accessories.

There is another world out there in which hobbyists make their own switches with motors and sensors, and they want Siri compatibility as well. Maybe that’s where Apple’s unsecured API for HomeKit should stay for now, to bridge the gap to eventually get to the authenticated devices they so desperately want to license.

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