“At the 2018 WWDC conference held not long ago, Apple gave HomeKit an important function in the newly released iOS 12 and tvOS 12-supporting third-party remote controls. Now after more than 4 years of development and construction, the HomeKit platform is finally gaining a foothold in the home automation market.
What is Homekit?
HomeKit is a smart home platform released by Apple in 2014. On May 15, 2015, Apple announced that the first batch of smart home devices supporting its HomeKit platform will be launched in June.
On June 13, 2016, the Apple Developer Conference WWDC was held in San Francisco. The meeting announced that builders began to support HomeKit. At the 2018 WWDC conference held not long ago, Apple gave HomeKit an important function in the newly released iOS 12 and tvOS 12-support for third-party remote controls. Now after more than 4 years of development and construction, the HomeKit platform is finally gaining a foothold in the home automation market.
How does Homekit connect with home appliances?
HomeKit is essentially the “partner” of Apple’s Bluetooth direct connection and multipoint device framework, allowing developers to use a set of simple commands to control the state of the device and send commands. Of course, if the device wants to be controlled by iOS, it must first be added to the Made For iPhone (MFI) project. According to Apple’s requirements, special wireless chips and software packages are integrated into the hardware device. Although Apple’s requirements for joining MFI devices are not as strict as in the past, this approach still prevents developers from developing HomeKit-compatible applications and prevents developers from using Arduino controllers to make their own home automation equipment. So, you can think of HomeKit as a booster for the home automation industry, not a “hacking tool.”
In fact, after obtaining authorization, HomeKit can provide independent information access methods for supported App and accessory devices. This means that any application that supports HomeKit can instantly obtain information about all devices in the room. When you add a smart device to your home, you don’t need to reconfigure it, just plug it in and add it to the existing system.
Siri is considered to be the main system interface of HomeKit, but the independent App that comes with the device also has control functions. In other words, if you have installed the device, Siri can recognize it and execute voice commands. You simply tell Siri to “turn on the bedroom lights,” and it will automatically recognize the equipment, accessories, and room, and then perform the corresponding actions. With HomeKit, users can use iOS devices to control all accessories at home marked “Works with Apple HomeKit” (compatible with Apple HomeKit). These accessories include lights, locks, thermostats, smart plugs and other accessories. Apple believes that HomeKit is not just a simple framework, users can open and control various accessories here.
In the HomeKit framework, you can define some initial devices, such as door locks, garage doors, and light switches. Support developers can also customize an unlimited number of new devices. Apple’s positioning for HomeKit is an “open” system that allows any device to be created and defined, and provides automatic interaction. The internal system is very flexible. Apple does not make too many restrictions, and allows developers to write operating commands for the device and do other tasks. However, even if HomeKit has a strong openness, not joining MFI is a different story. All hardware that supports HomeKit uses end-to-end encryption, which has strong security. The HomeKit API can only be used when the App is activated or when the front end is opened. Currently, no app can use HomeKit while running in the background.
Of course, you can set the command to be executed under specific conditions, and these conditions include the application closed state. However, this requires the user to give a very clear command, such as “open the garage door when I get home”, or “turn on the lights at 8 o’clock on Tuesday night”, and so on.
In fact, it is the iOS system that actually handles user commands, not those independent App applications. Some malicious applications cannot perform some redundant operations without the user’s permission. In addition, the Apple system also provides a “area” function for grouping rooms, dividing the area according to “upstairs” or “downstairs”. Users may also classify by service, so that they can support commands like “turn on all lights”. Before the MFI hardware device goes on the market, developers can use Apple’s program that simulates the hardware device to “pretend” to control the device.
What protocol does Homekit use?
Simply put, HomeKit allows smart home devices from various manufacturers to interact and collaborate at the iOS level without the need for these manufacturers to directly connect. After carefully studying this architecture, we found that Home Kit is a set of protocols, a database on iOS, and a new mode of thinking for the interconnection of smart home products. Apple has left a lot of room for smart hardware developers and third-party developers.
The Home Kit protocol regulates how smart home products connect and communicate with iOS terminals. Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Apple Software, once said lightly that the Secure Pairing function of the Home Ki protocol can ensure that only your iPhone can open your garage door. Among the announced chip partners are Broadcom, Marvel and TI. These are all mainstream suppliers of implantable Wi-Fi chips, so it can be confirmed that HomeKit mainly supports Wi-Fi or direct-connect Ethernet devices in the early stage. At present, there are many difficulties to overcome in the development of Wi-Fi smart hardware, including how to pair the device with the mobile phone, how to get the Wi-Fi password and join the hotspot at home, how to ensure a stable and secure remote connection, and so on.
At the database level, Apple has introduced an infrastructure that is conducive to the development of the industry: it has established a smart home database on iOS that can be queried and edited by third-party apps. This database contains several very important concepts that are useful for current smart hardware developers: home, room, area, equipment, service, action, trigger.
HomeKit regards the family as a collection of smart home devices, and organically combines these devices through the family, room, and area. The two concepts of equipment and service are very interesting. Here, Apple introduced a concept that is relatively unfamiliar to the hardware industry, but rather “Internet”: Service Oriented Architecture. A hardware device is defined as a unit that provides one or more services, and these services can be discovered and invoked by third-party applications. For example, Philips Hue LED lights can be understood as equipment that provides lighting services, in which switch control, color and brightness control are all specific functions of this service. Similarly, Haier’s Tianzun air conditioner can be understood as a device that provides cooling, heating, air purification and other services related to air quality.
All smart devices in the family that support the HomeKit standard publish the supported services and are included in a unified database through the discovery mechanism of iOS. On top of the basic units of equipment and services, HomeKit defines scene units such as home, room, area (combination of multiple rooms) to allow multiple devices in the home to form an organic combination. For example, the electrical appliances in the bedroom (such as lights and curtains) can be organized into a scene and controlled uniformly. Areas can combine equipment from multiple rooms and control them together.
What can HomeKit do besides remote control?
When it comes to control, the design of HomeKit is far from being interpreted by some media, simply turning the iPhone into a universal remote control. There are two important automation concepts in the Home Kit control system: trigger (Trigger) and operation (AcTIon). This is very similar to the popular IFTTT application abroad. Users can use a simple “IF X THEN Y” formula and many ready-made data interfaces to achieve a very diversified automatic reminder and operation function. Similarly, the trigger and operation mechanism of the Home Kit can realize the automatic operation of various scenes: for example, “draw the curtains when the bedroom lights are turned on” and so on.
Of course, with Apple’s style of doing things, they regard HomeKit as a development framework, and they will not and cannot participate in the definition and implementation of these specific scenarios. Just like on iOS, you can have the infrastructure for developing games, but Apple will not make games. HomeKit opens data interfaces to developers to facilitate their implementation of smart home innovation. One of the selling points of Home Kit is the integration of Siri. The user can input control instructions by voice. This is actually a facility used by developers, because the instructions themselves are defined by the developers.
Through the analysis of the HomeKit architecture and the first batch of partners, we can think that Apple’s smart home is actually creating an ecological environment where manufacturers + developers work together to serve users. Through an open design concept, Apple has reserved a considerable amount of space for partners, while also detailing their division of labor. The expertise of hardware manufacturers is to provide good products, and building a good user experience on mobile phones is the strength of developers, especially third-party developers. Apple itself continues to position itself as a platform. Create an environment to promote the development of the smart home industry in public, and consolidate the core position of iOS devices in the family in private.
What is missing in the HomeKit puzzle?
But we can also see that the smart home combination of HomeKit, smart hardware + iOS + Apps/Siri, is obviously incomplete. When the user holds the iOS device at home, the mobile phone can temporarily become the central nerve of the smart home, but the high mobility of iOS is obviously inappropriate or insufficient as the central nerve of the part-TIme: when the user leaves the home, it turns out to be perfect The smart home was immediately beaten back to the Stone Age.
Here Apple has left a vacancy: a hub that coordinates smart hardware outside of iOS. There are two possibilities here: One is a hardware approach-Apple can use its own Apple TV, Airport router, and iTV to be launched in the future as the hub of Persistent’s smart home. Another possibility of partial software is that the responsibility is placed on iCloud.
What opportunities does HomeKit provide for domestic entrepreneurial teams and hardware manufacturers?
In the past, Apple’s HomeKit product certification was slow, the product quality requirements were high, the development cycle was long, and many thresholds such as the use of Apple’s encryption chips, which led to the slow progress of the HomeKit ecosystem. The reason why changes are taking place stems from last year’s Apple WWDC Developer Conference, which simplified the HomeKit certification process, R&D threshold, and development test tools, and lowered the product development threshold.
At the same time, Apple has set up new test laboratories around the world and introduced new automation tools to speed up the review of HomeKit hardware. In addition, after the release of iOS 10, HomeKit launched an application called “Family”, people can unified control all smart home devices that support HomeKit, no longer need to rely on their own third-party applications.
At present, domestic smart homes have been slow to make progress, and hardware manufacturers are looking for new outlets. In the past, domestic BAT and Xiaomi Jingdong entered the market in various ways. For example, at the AI Developers Conference in July last year, Baidu announced that the voice interaction platform Duer OS was fully open source, the Ali AI Labs intelligent voice assistant and the developer platform AliGenie. Xiaomi’s smart home strategy is through investment in the layout of the smart hardware industry chain, and then through the software and hardware integration strategy controlled by the Mijia APP. The traditional industries, represented by Haier, Midea, Changhong, TCL, and Gree, make smart single products.
On the one hand, Internet giants want to be platforms, controllers and connectors, while traditional companies are more focused on the concept to increase sales, but the concept is lively, and there are few explosions that really landed. In addition, the major Internet giants launch their own platforms and draw their own pictures. , Lack of industry standards, insufficient control over hardware products and supply chains, and disconnection and compatibility in interfaces. The low quality of smart home products and price wars have caused the smart home market to enter a deadlock.
In this case, Apple’s vigorous promotion of HomeKit has become a new opportunity for domestic manufacturers. Well-known smart bulb manufacturers at home and abroad, including Philips, Haier, Elgato, LIFX, and IKEA, have also used practical actions to promote HomeKit, and entrepreneurial air purifier manufacturers such as Shenzhen local company OPSO and Air Castle have also joined. Even China’s R&F Properties is integrating HomeKit devices into new homes.
Compared with domestic Internet giants, the Apple platform has higher technical standards, security and reliability, and the software and hardware ecological layout is more complete. After all, Apple controls the underlying operating system. The voice control experience of HomeKit and Siri seamlessly connected under the iOS system and the remote control of iCloud are equivalent to building the infrastructure of smart home devices. This is why although Apple has never become a direct participant of CES, At the CES show, you can see a variety of new HomeKit products and compatible devices. Last year, there were more than 17 new products released at the CES show.
With the development of the home Internet concept in full swing, more and more manufacturers of products such as smart TVs, smart routers, smart air conditioners, refrigerators, etc., and Apple has gradually taken more actions in connecting home appliance manufacturers. Hardware manufacturers are obviously unwilling to miss this wave of new dividends brought by Apple.
Even from the perspective of channels and brands, it is well known that Apple has always been harsh in the selection of partners and must meet Apple’s product quality standards, user experience effects, and technical strength. If you become a partner manufacturer of HomeKit, it is equivalent to having Apple’s brand endorsement, and you can gain higher market influence, brand awareness and brand premium.
In general, the launch of Apple’s HomeKit is good for the development of the entire smart home industry. With the compatibility of Apple’s smart speaker HomePod and HomeKit, and gradually miniaturization, medium culture, low profile and low price, it has also reached the transformation period of human-computer interaction. With the help of the smart speaker HomePod, HomeKit compatible devices will show an exponential Level growth. At present, domestic and foreign HomeKit docking manufacturers are ready to move, and it is expected that there will be a big outbreak in the next two years.
At the same time, relatively speaking, the iOS system has better user value and experience-level advantages in the smart home market, and Apple has always been good at achieving post-production with better experience and ecological integration capabilities. Apple has built a reasonable structure on the mobile operating system, leaving a lot of opportunities for players from all walks of life, and it has also allowed the smart home market to continue to heat up.