Apple's plan to put its own stamp on the connected home market took a step forward today (June 2), as the first products based on Apple's HomeKit standard have gone on sale.
Apple introduced HomeKit at its 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference as a common protocol for smart home devices. Using HomeKit, device makers can allow users to control their products -- everything from lights to plus to sensors -- from iOS devices. Of particular interest, HomeKit-certified devices can be controlled via Apple's virtual assistant, Siri. This year's WWDC takes place next week in San Francisco, so expect Apple to cover HomeKit's progress during next Monday's keynote.
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Lutron, a lighting company, has released one of the first HomeKit devices. The Caséta Wireless Smart Bridge (part of its Lighting Starter Kit, $230) lets users plug in lamps with dimmer switches and connect with said lamps via iPhones and iPads. This lets users check the status of lights and control them from anywhere with a data connection. To be fair, just about any smart lighting system can do this, but the Caséta can do it through Siri. The kit is available now at Apple Stores.
iHome's HomeKit device, the iSP5 SmartPlug ($40), is a bit more versatile. Users can plug in lamps, fans or just about any other device and then control them with Apple gadgets. Granted, the functionality for most devices is restricted to simply turning them on or off, but you can also set up "rules" for devices to turn on and off at certain times. Users will be able to pre-order the iSP5 on June 15.
The Eve sensors from Elgato ($40 to $80) are likewise HomeKit-certified. These sensors keep track of variables like air quality, humidity and home security, depending on the particular sensor and its placement within the house. They are currently available for pre-order.
Ecobee added HomeKit support to its ecobee3 smart thermostat, allowing users to control heating and cooling from their iOS device via Siri. The $249 smart thermostat goes on sale July 7 with preorders starting on June 23.
Insteon unveiled a HomeKit-enabled version of Insteon Hub, which connects to switches, outlets, thermostats and lightbulbs. You can order the $150 hub through Amazon and Smarthome.com now; the device arrives in retail stores in July. Insteon also updated its Insteon+ app for iOS, which it says will work with other HomeKit-ready devices from other manufacturers.
Tom's Guide will have to get our hands on HomeKit products before we can evaluate them in comparison to other smart home protocols. However, at least one feature sounds promising: Apple requires end-to-end encryption on HomeKit gadgets, meaning that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for an unwanted intruder to infiltrate the system. Surprisingly, many competing technologies do not offer comparable security measures.
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