While Apple is still trying to figure out how to expand Homekit to include more products, the space for 3rd party devices that work on the Apple protocol is still booming. A number of excellent plugins and platforms have been written to bridge the gap in smart home tech for early adopters. Homebridge has been a great ecosystem for smart home enthusiasts to get random devices and scripts into Apple Homekit for a few years now, and it has helped me with numerous unsupported products. Here are a list of must-have accessories that I use in conjunction with Homebridge:
A Raspberry Pi
While Homebridge is supported on Mac and Windows, I have quickly ran into some bluetooth driver limitations, which is no good for some of my Bluetooth LE-based devices. I also wanted the ability to shut down my laptop to take it with me instead of breaking my setup. The solution was this Raspberry Pi. I bought it without the clear case, but there may be cheaper options out there as well — this one did not break down on me like another one did. Make sure that you have a USB keyboard and a monitor that supports HDMI for initial setup. I installed xrdp to make it compatible for control with Microsoft Remote Desktop on my Mac, but you can also SSH into it and mess around in the console if you know what you’re doing. There is a great guide on the Homebridge repository to make Homebridge start on boot.
Until Apple works with Logitech to release a remote-based system in Homekit, this platform will connect with your Broadlink RM Mini and allow you to learn and activate any device that uses an infrared remote. The Broadlink RM Mini is only about $23 USD. It is perfect for controlling ceiling fans, air conditioners, and (non-smart) TVs. The only issues that I have had with it is that the device goes offline sometimes, but it is still better than Logitech pulling 3rd party device support for the Harmony Hub. If you find that it goes offline, you can reset Homebridge, and it will fix it. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try this plugin for the Harmony Hub in Homebridge – they supposedly have fixed some of the issues with integration but I cannot recommend the hub right now as their activity function has been mis-coded for quite some time. The only need I could see for owning the Harmony Hub is to have access to their vast database of infrared codes, if you lost a remote for something and have nothing to go on. Otherwise, the Broadlink-RM Mini is great for handling IR signals.
(Hacked) Dafang Camera
See my previous blog post on getting this cheapo camera set up with Homebridge. While there is a new Homebridge plugin that has been made to interface with the hacked Dafang camera, I have not successfully been able to get it working yet with the new firmware that they released. I have reached out for help, and will update you when it is good to go. However, my previous directions should still be relevant to add this as camera to your Homekit setup. For $16, you can’t go wrong.
If you have a Wink Hub with accessories on it, you’re in luck for Homekit compatibility. I used this plugin in conjunction with some switches (which I cannot recommend, unfortunately) and a Samsung SmartThings door sensor — the door sensor always worked flawlessly. If you are into Zigbee and Z-Wave devices that do not have their own Homekit-compatible hubs, this is a great plugin to start with. However, you will need a developer account with Wink first in order to receive your API credentials. The app will walk you through setup in the console as well.
Someone came up with a plugin to expose Homebridge accessories to Alexa, which is awesome if you have a few of these hubs around the house. When setting up, you need to install the plugin, create an account on the developer’s website, and enable the skill in Alexa. Please note that this may not work in certain regions (refer to the ReadMe for more information). You also need to set your Homebridge to be in insecure mode, which can be set at
var insecureAccess = true;
This is not ideal, but if you absolutely need this feature working, you’ll need to do this. You can add other Homekit accessories through their appropriate skills if they are available on the Alexa platform.
For more Homebridge plugins, visit the /r/homebridge subreddit. There are numerous other ones that have been created and maintained, including one that automatically turns on your lights when you pause your AppleTV.