The arrival of iOS 8 approximately two years ago marked the official entry of Apple in the smart home market, giving iPhone and iPad owners the possibility of managing all those intelligent devices (connected to the Wi-Fi network), such as security cameras, intelligent thermostats, radiator valves, rolling shutter motors and low consumption lamps, designed to make the home a more comfortable and intelligent place.
Let’s therefore find out what is Apple Home Kit, its purpose and how to use it.
Home Kit is a framework (meaning a group of software programs and function libraries) developed by Apple in order to allow a particular use of “smart” devices. Particular use because, as it is often the case with Apple products, the company only certifies these products after testing their functions and safety.
On the basis of Home Kit, other manufacturers are able to design and produce devices that can communicate with your iPhone/iPad and therefore also be controlled remotely.
By purchasing an Apple Home Kit certified smart product, identified by an appropriate logo, one can therefore be confident to own a device that will work with Home, the App developed by Apple to indeed manage such types of devices, and available by default on all latest generation iPhones and iPads with iOS version 10.x or higher installed.
A further advantage of this integration will be the possibility of controlling each device through Siri or, should it not be possible to use voice controls, by simple taps. For example, using Siri it will be possible to switch on the living room lights by simply saying “Hey Siri, switch on the living room lights”.
Home Kit is based on a function that Apple calls “Home Manager”, meaning a level of software abstraction where all the information of the smart devices installed in the App, their distribution and characteristics, are automatically saved and updated locally in the iPhone or iPad.
Security first of all!
Of course, operating through the Internet also entails the risk of cyber-attacks. This is why Apple certified Smart Home devices undergo a number of security checks, both in terms of their capabilities in fighting external intrusions, and privacy management.
This ensures high security levels against unauthorised intrusion attempts, for example aimed at stealing the general alarm code. For this reason, the communication protocol between Apple Home Kit and the associated devices offers end-to-end encryption of all transmitted information. The communication to the individual device must in fact travel either through an iOS device, or through iCloud. In both cases, this communication is encrypted and based on key pairs that are not readily available, but stored in a safe manner.
How is Apple Home Kit installed?
How do we add a product to Home Kit, and most of all, how is it used?
First of all, it will be necessary to install the Home application. With this application, it is possible to control the home devices through customised commands and Siri voice commands.
In order to add a device, the same must be connected to the home Wi-Fi network, after which it will simply be a case of opening the Home application and pressing “Add accessory”.
Home will then ask to enable the Bluetooth module or Wi-Fi connectivity. This is necessary, as it allows to identify the nearby device, and to add it.
As soon as the device is identified, Home will ask if you want to add the accessory. To add the device to Home Kit, it will now be necessary to enter the unique code.
It is important to remember that the code is a unique number used by the device to declare its presence to the network, in exactly the same way as when pairing the mobile phone to the car bluetooth speaker. To ensure that the code is entered correctly, it is possible to use the camera of the smartphone to read the QR Code displayed.
After completing these operations, it will be possible to add further information about the added product. For example, if the product is a thermostat, one can assign a name and associate it with a room previously created in Home.
In this way, Apple Home Kit can store all the information required to allow Home to manage the device functions.
But what smart home would it be if it could not also be controlled with Siri?
Apple digital assistant can of course be used to control the behaviour of the accessories installed in the home. It is also possible to tell Siri to command certain specific accessories in certain rooms. The simplest commands include “Switch on the living room lights” and “Set the temperature to 25°.