I recently purchased a set of video security cameras to pay for the area throughout my home. I live in a semi-rural area, and i am not really that concerned about burglars, but I felt that it couldn't hurt to have some protection. One of the things that nudged me in this direction was the fact that the cameras I purchased, NetGear's Arlo Pro, support Apple's HomeKit.

HomeKit is really a framework that runs under the hood on macOS and iOS, and most people neglected, unless they've explored smart home devices. HomeKit isn't very difficult to setup and use, and it provides you with a powerful and secure way of controlling \”smart home\” devices like cameras, lights, doorbells, heating, and much more.

What is HomeKit?

Apple introduced HomeKit-a software framework to handle and control smart home devices-in 2021, with the discharge of iOS 8. It took a while for devices to be HomeKit compatible, in part because Apple initially required devices to have a special encryption chip. They since changed what's needed to permit software authentication, and, as stated, now you can find devices that support HomeKit in many categories: lights, sensors, security devices, speakers, thermostats, plus much more; you will find a comprehensive list on Apple's site.

HomeKit functions without anyone's knowledge in your network. All the configuration information for your devices gets shared using your iCloud account, and you can control all of them with your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even Apple Watch. As a result, and for security, you have to be signed into your iCloud account to make use of HomeKit, and employ two-factor authentication to control devices remotely.

When you set HomeKit devices, you set \”accessories,\” and also you assign these to specific \”rooms.\” You can also create \”scenes,\” which are groups of devices and settings that you can activate with a tap in your home app, or using Siri. HomeKit also enables automation: for example, you may create a routine where when the temperature goes below a certain level, your heat goes on. Or when you open your garage door in the morning, your lights set off, your heat goes down, as well as your door locks.

The Advantages of HomeKit

HomeKit enables you to group all your devices and get them organized by room, meaning that, generally, you don't need to make use of the apps produced by the manufacturers from the hardware. You may need to use those apps to setup the devices-you often have to create accounts using the manufacturers to complete this-and you may not have access to all of the settings and features of devices in the Home app. However for most uses it means you have a central app to control all your smart home devices.

The capability to group devices in \”scenes\” makes HomeKit especially powerful, along with the ability to use \”geofencing.\” A scene is a mixture of actions the different devices carry out. For instance, lights go on and music starts playing inside your living room. Geofencing activates scenes when you arrive at or leave locations. You can have routines that activate automatically when you leave the house or get back home. You may also possess a scene that activates when you leave the office, adjusting the thermostat and turning on lights in your own home, for instance.

HomeKit also allows you to invite others to gain access to your devices. You are able to invite your spouse, partner, and children, or even friends, so that you can control your HomeKit devices.

Using HomeKit Remotely

HomeKit works with any iOS/iPadOS device or Mac, running iOS 8 or macOS Mojave or later. It is, obviously, best to have the latest version of the device's operating-system. You can also control HomeKit devices from an Apple Watch. All these platforms includes a Home app that teaches you all your devices, rooms, and scenes, and offers settings and controls, though the Apple Watch only provides controls. I'm able to, however, view my video security cameras on my Apple Watch.

To control HomeKit remotely, you need a \”HomeKit hub.\” A HomeKit hub is a device that continues to be in your home to receive remote commands. Any HomePod, Apple TV, or iPad can serve as a HomeKit hub. This could seem a bit confusing, because you don't actually have to do anything to set up the HomeKit hub. HomePods and Apple TVs automatically register themselves as HomeKit hubs, if they are signed in to the same iCloud account where you've set up your HomeKit compatible devices. For an iPad, you have to visit Settings > Home and toggle on Make use of this iPad like a Home hub for this to be enabled.

Related: Everything you can perform with an Apple HomePod

Once your HomeKit hub is established, you can check in your home app on any device to see which hubs are active. In iOS, tap the little home icon at the very top left of the window, then tap Hubs and Bridges. You'll notice that in my home, there are four hubs: the first is active and three take presctiption standby.

In the screenshot above, you can also see two \”bridges\”: a Philips Hue bridge, and a base station for my Arlo Pro security cameras. Bridges are hardware devices from manufacturers that register with HomeKit, and control their devices indirectly.

HomeKit And Security

Many people use HomeKit to manage devices they use to protect their houses: cameras, doorbells, sensors, etc. As a result, this framework has a high level of security, notably by using two-factor authentication, and thru secure data storage on iCloud. All of your settings are part of your iCloud data, and Apple recently introduced HomeKit Secure Video, which lets you store video from video security cameras in iCloud. This really is useful since many camera manufacturers cause you to pay a subscription to keep videos in the cloud; others, for example mine, allow you to connect a USB hard drive to their base station so you can store videos locally.

As you can imagine, this data needs to be extremely secure; you wouldn't want anyone to obtain access to your cameras or to be able to control the temperature or lights in your house. Apple tests and approves each device before allowing it to be compatible with HomeKit, and requires that you employ two-factor authentication for remote access, each of which help ensure this security. As your HomeKit devices are related to your Apple ID, this means you ought to be especially careful together with your Apple ID password. If a person compromises it, and may get access to a device you use for two-factor authentication, they could also gain access to your video security cameras, smart locks, and more in your home.

The Way forward for HomeKit

It's taken a couple of years for HomeKit to gain critical mass, and it is only this year that there's a macOS form of the Home app. However the smart home is still in the early years; it will take some time for people to become confident with these units, and to integrate them to their homes. Apple's HomeKit makes this easy, and can help people understand the probabilities of smart home devices as well as automation.

How can I find out more?

To find out more about HomeKit and also the smart home, I suggest it Manage Home Automation, by Josh Centers.

We further discuss Apple HomeKit on this week’s episode of the Intego Mac Podcast,