HOMEBRIDGE: software that fools HomeKit into thinking other devices are attached to a hue bridge
Homebridge is an independent project created a number of years ago to take advantage of the fact that the Philips Hue API allowed Philips hue developers to create virtual devices that could be connected to HomeKit.
This was intended to allow Philips hue developers to create apps and integrations for Philips hue devices that they didn’t have yet.
But people pretty quickly figured out that you could use this to fool HomeKit into thinking that non-compatible devices like, say, a ring floodlight, were actually hue bulbs, allowing them to be turned on and off in HomeKit. (You could even use this method for something like a nest thermostat, which ends up looking like a bunch of different switches in the Apple home app. It’s not a perfect integration, but it was better than nothing for many people.)
So homebridge is just software which creates virtual proxies that you can see in the Apple home app. Of course, all software has to run on something, so people typically set up a server device with a raspberry pi, although there are other options as well.
And homebridge isn’t a hub in itself: you still have to have a zwave hub and a Zigbee hub and whatever else you’re using. It’s literally just a bridge between the home automation network that you have and the Apple home app.
Anyway, over the years people have used this method to bring in all kinds of third-party devices into HomeKit. Everything from nest protects to zwave switches connected to smartthings.
HOMEBRIDGE IS STRICTLY A ONE WAY INTEGRATION: it brings non-HomeKit devices into the Apple home app. It does not bring HomeKit devices back into another home automation platform like smartthings.
Each individual “plug-in“ is developed and maintained by individual programmers. And over the years, there have been a couple of different ones for SmartThings. Most of these depended on Groovy smartapps which will no longer work, but there is at least one which was created as a cloud to cloud integration and can be used with the new architecture.
But all of these are one-way only. You can use them to get your smartthings-connected devices to show up in the Apple home app. But you couldn’t use them to bring a HomeKit device, like, say, the Eve smart plug, back into smartthings.
HOOBS, OLD AND NEW
Oh, and we should also say that there is one company, HOOBS (“homebridge out of the box”) which sells a small computer that comes with homebridge already installed. The idea was to make setting up HomeBridge feel less technical and be easier.
But “easier” doesn’t mean “easy,” – – you still have to find plug-ins for the devices you want to use in HomeKit and you still have to configure them and the whole thing is pretty technical.
A lot of people thought that matter might just kill Hoobs because you wouldn’t need homebridge for any device that supported matter.
However, hoobs joined the third party organization that created matter and has announced their new design, Hoobs Pro, and this one (due for release in April) IS a hub, at least for Zigbee, Bluetooth, and thread. It’s a thread border router. It supports matter. And it still comes with home bridge pre-installed.
It doesn’t have zwave and it will cost $500 and it’s not really clear if there’s going to be a market for this, but it’s an interesting direction. We’ll just have to see what happens with that one. And if they made it any easier to use.
ALL OF THAT IS JUST WHAT HOMEBRIDGE IS. Now to your real question…
so homebridge is software which lets you fool HomeKit into thinking that some non-HomeKit devices are Philips hue devices. Consequently it let you bring more stuff into the Apple home app than you could otherwise. And there are some integrations that let you bring some (not all) devices from your smartthings account over to the Apple home app.
And like HomeKit itself it doesn’t affect any of the other integrations you have running, like smartthings or Alexa.
Homebridge itself requires considerable technical expertise just to get it up and running, but it has been popular in the past, and there are some current homebridge plugins which work with at least some devices on your SmartThings account. It’s not an edge driver. You will still have to have a separate server device to run homebridge. It doesn’t work with every device connected to your smartthings account, just some of them. And it’s pretty technical. But it is working.
Here’s the discussion thread. You can find people there, who are using the integration with the new architecture and ask them any further questions you have.
But, yes, this would let you use Siri to control some of your smartthings devices.
Homebridge after groovy
A DIFFERENT ALTERNATIVE IF ALL YOU WANT IS SIRI VOICE CONTROL
By the way, if all you want is Siri voice control, not to actually bring the devices into the Apple home app, there is a simpler way that doesn’t require the additional server device, and that’s to use Ifttt with Siri Shortcuts. Setup for that is kind of tedious, but definitely easier than homebridge, and the only cost is an IFTTT subscription which you might already have. If you’re interested in that option, here’s an article about it. (I’m pretty sure you have to have the Ifttt app on the device where you are going to set this up. )
YET ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE: Alexa on the Apple Watch
There’s no official Alexa app for the Apple Watch, but there is a third-party option that costs about two dollars called “voice in a can.“ It’s been around for at least four years and works pretty well. All it does is let you speak Alexa commands to your Apple Watch, but sometimes that’s all you need. You don’t get full Alexa compatibility, but the smart home controls work OK.