Why dumb devices rule the smart home: a cautionary tale from Apple's HomeKit

Only if pin codes are needed. If not, we could go back to the '70’s technology of electric, latchable door strikes. And if pins are needed, a keypad could be installed.

While the all in one solutions are more convenient (except for the batteries of course), I have yet to see one that wasn’t an ugly, overpriced, piece of junk.

1 Like

If batteries are inevitable, perhaps devices with possibly short battery life need easy quick swap and recharge modules like on power tools. Off the self batteries are convenient to buy, but not the easiest to swap. Or we need to run “power over wifi”, right? If it works for Ethernet then why not wireless? :wink:

It does… http://ubeam.com/

Rather, “it may…someday.”

UBeam has some interesting patents, but the device is still just in the prototype stage. And then there’s this:

The uBeam charging capabilities do have some serious limitations, including the power transmitters’ inability to beam through walls. This means that unlike Wi-Fi hotspots, where a single device can transmit Internet to an entire house or small office, uBeam users would have to buy transmitters for each room.

Well it already works, so I would go with “it will…someday” (c;

Lots of prototypes work that either never make it to retail production, or make it and then fail because real world field conditions prove insurmountable.

For a recent example, see the original Lockitron.

The focus on HomeKit devices feels wrong. Yes, there were such devices shown off and expected, but the bulk of HomeKit is an app framework for iOS. Apple’s definition, copied and pasted from the HomeKit developer site:

HomeKit is a framework in iOS 8 for communicating with and controlling connected accessories in a user’s home. You can enable users to discover HomeKit accessories in their home and configure them, or you can create actions to control those devices. Users can group actions together and trigger them using Siri.

Yes, there is a hardware angle to HomeKit as well. But I think that if folks like us are going to find value in HomeKit, it’s going to be on the app side of things where those apps are controlling devices we already own. Again from the HomeKit developer site:

If your iOS app is primarily designed to provide home configuration or home automation services such as turning on a light or opening a garage door, learn more about the HomeKit APIs used for communicating with HomeKit accessories.

Check it out for yourself, and draw your own conclusions. I don’t claim to be a HomeKit guru, or anything close.

I think the real cautionary tale is in how many click-bait articles are written about Apple simply in order to drive ad impressions, not because they have any real insight.

1 Like

I’m confused by this comment.

:There’s a two-way authentication process required for HomeKit, and if you follow the links in the same passages you quote, a “HomeKit accessory” is primarily something certified through the MFi program that requires a special hardware chip to do that authentication.

The main exceptions that have been discussed are devices that “don’t control the home,” which means sensors that report data and a possible exception for zigbee lightbulbs that connect through an MFi certified bridge.

They’ve specifically said that, for example, Nest thermostats will not work with HomeKit.

There’s a required app that’s needed and has not yet been released that will discover devices and allow Siri to communicate with them. But the devices that can be discovered are limited to those that can do the authentication.

I haven’t seen anything coming out of Apple saying that HomeKit will work with a lot of devices we already own, with the exception of lightbulbs communicating through a HomeKit-updated bridge device. And, of course, anything running iOS.

It would be great if Apple opened up Siri control to a lot of the devices we already own, but I’m not seeing that in any of the information released so far.

Those HomeKit APIs are for “communicating with HomeKit accessories.” And so far that means devices that have the special chip. It’s not a firmware update you could apply to a zwave doorlock, for example.

There was one early article last fall that jumped on the first brief mention of a “bridge” and assumed that meant that a hub like SmartThings would be able to control all its devices via HomeKit. But as more details were released through the developer program in late December and January it became clear that the “bridge” idea was much more limited than people had first supposed. Instead, it looks more and more like the HomeKit “bridge” concept was intended for the Phillips Hue Bridge, assuming that device comes out in a HomeKit version.

But who knows? We’ll see what happens when everything is finally available to buy, including the Insteon Homekit-certified hub.

Yeah, HomeKit really does seem much more basic and wary of existing devices. And I’m being very hopeful of how it can add to HA - but that’s not an Apple strategy.

I’ve now read comments in articles saying that HomeKit is not intended for whole home control. Maybe that’s true of the initial offering, but I’ll bet that it is the intention for the long term.

The reason I’ve seen repeatedly for HomeKit not supporting the Nest thermostat is that HomeKit won’t bridge wifi devices because of security concerns. What exactly they’re referring to, and whether that’s the only reason, I don’t know.

There are a few interpretations of bridged devices not being allowed to control the home. You mention the “sensors, not actuators” definition (and I apologize, I’m greatly simplifying it).

One article claimed that controlling light bulbs falls controlling the home, and thus would not be allowed as a bridged accessory. I call BS on that because of the Hue example (Philips one of the early ones on the HomeKit bandwagon, right?). But I could be totally off and that refers to a complete redesigned Hue product for HomeKit.

My interpretation is the bridge/hub distinction where a bridge is dumb, and only translates HomeKit to z-wave/zigbee/insteon but doesn’t add any advanced logic or inter-device logic, instead deferring to HomeKit. But again, that’s me being optimistic. Oh, and devices that provide access to the home must not be bridged (locks/garage door opener).

Apple is all about the user experience. And they’re going to want to control and create that experience from the ground up. Existing devices don’t fit neatly into that strategy, and as much as I’d like otherwise, Apple doesn’t support things that don’t fit their strategy.

But I agree, we truly won’t know what it will and won’t do until V1 is fully released. Even then, we won’t know the roadmap for V2, V3, etc.

3 Likes

I first have to say that starting a thread with professed hatred of a company (a company that continuously releases incredibly useful and popular products) is a decent indication that every statement that follows is, at best, hugely biased speculation.

As to the speculation and conclusions, I think this thread will one day be given new life by someone pointing out how wrong it was. Apple is not a company that rushes products to the market. It doesn’t need to. It just has to offer something better than anyone else has offered. My guess is that people working on HomeKit have considered everything you have and a lot more. I also guess that they are capable of providing solutions and bringing a solid product (service if you prefer) to the market. That’s what happens when you have top talent and bottomless pockets.

I suspect you misread my first post.

I don’t hate Apple products–in fact, I’m almost totally dependent on them, and like them very much.

I am quadriparetic, with limited hand control. As I have posted often on this forum, Apple’s commitment to accessibility at the operating system level means it tends to work better for most people with similar issues than Android does. (I’ve posted links to other analysts explaining this issue in further detail for those who are interested.)

My point in the first paragraph was that while there are undeniably some community members with brand prejudices, the “candle at both ends” issue arises for many battery powered devices, including zigbee and zwave versions.

As for myself: I have an iPad mounted on my wheelchair, two iPad minis, an iPhone, and an Apple watch. Search the forums for any of the existing HomeKit discussions. I think my “nonhater” credentials are pretty well established in this community. :wink:

1 Like

Fair enough. I read it again and the first sentence can be interpreted differently with the context you just offered.

I’ll just re-direct my sentiment to actual Apple haters, and retain my excitement for what I think will eventually be a great product.

1 Like

I backed this for a lot of the reasons you mentioned: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1425492550/sesame-your-key-reinvented/

The media apparently doesn’t have a clue as to what HomeKit really is, especially in relation to other platforms.

This Wired piece puts HomeKit in the same bucket as Brillo (ummm… Nope!) and claims you need to spend $1000 for a basic smart home.

Wired is for somewhat “gadget aware” consumers, isn’t it?

1 Like

JD if you don’t mind my asking, how do you type? Do you use Siri or any type of voice control to do things?

It’s all voice. Voice dictation on the iPad, mostly. Dragon on the laptop occasionally. I can use a knuckle tap on the iPad for some things. Hey Siri to launch stuff. (My iPad is always plugged in.) Like most quads, I also use a switch device.

This Wall St Journal video shows how a person without functional hands uses a touchscreen.

Voice is the reason my posts tend to be longer than most people’s, but in short paragraphs. That’s a typical dictation style.

As far as voice command of devices goes, much discussion here:

3 Likes

Thanks JD, that’s pretty amazing stuff. I don’t use Siri that often, I still find it pretty lacking in many areas, especially when compared to Google Now, or (from what I’ve heard) Amazon’s Echo. But they’re saying Siri will be getting a big upgrade in iOS 9.

Amazon Echo’s far field voice recognition is simply amazing (and I use a lot of voice recognition). Understands everybody who comes to the house across almost the whole first floor. It’s the main way we control lights now. Can’t wait for ST integration, several people are working on it.

The Echo is a good example of an expensive, big, mains-powered device. That may well prove to be the future for many types of home automation. But it’s a real shift from the smaller-cheaper-battery-powered direction of the last few years.

2 Likes

Sorry to necro… but this is a great post.

First: Certainly were I building new right now, I would seek powered sensors with battery backup. Changing batteries is a PITA; it is ultimately energy-inefficient with the cost of batteries.

Second, the garage door: it’s ridiculous to wait on a door to open because the automation has not yet kicked on! I’ve posted before about how automation is not necessarily smart. That would be one of those instances. :smile: ‘Smart’ is telling Alexa or google to open the garage door.

1 Like

Pretty sure you could do it now. Just a matter of how much are you willing to pay?

1 Like