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June 13, 2017

Apple HomeKit spec change likely to see river of new products flood the market

by John_A

Apple has quietly opened up its HomeKit specification, allowing third-party manufacturers, like Philips and Honeywell, to connect to the Apple smart home offering through software authentication rather than needing a dedicated hardware chip.

The news is likely to usher in a wave of new devices, as well as, mean an array of older devices can now be controlled by Siri.

Until now, manufacturers of devices like smart lights or intelligent thermostats have not only had to ensure a dedicated chip be included, but also that the devices be part of Apple’s MFi program.

  • What you need to get started with HomeKit
  • Apple HomeKit and Home app: What are they and how do they work?

That’s been not only costly but time consuming. It also forced some, like Philips, to have to offer new hardware to work with older devices, which in turn, many believe has been damaging to adoption of the Apple technology in the home.

Going forward, though, that’s all about to change.

“Any registered Apple developer can now access the HomeKit specification. They can build their own or tinker with devices like Rasberry Pi. They have access to the full spec. Or maybe create a prototype, for example, to launch a Kickstarter project,” Apple explains. “We want to encourage creativity. A large part of our developer community was locked off having access to the spec since they weren’t part of the MFi program. If they want to move ahead and bring a product to market and commercialize it, they will still need to sign up for MFI license, go through certification, satisfy all of the HomeKit requirements as part of that process, and get the Works with Apple HomeKit badge.”

Manufacturers will still be able to offer hardware authentication if they want, but they will now also be able to do it via software authorisation through iCloud.

Apple says that the new software authorisation does not change the secure pairing or encryption piece of the HomeKit spec and that it will be the same regardless if they go with hardware or software authorisation.

It’s clear that the company is hoping the move will quickly expand the ecosystem of accessories available and be welcomed by manufacturers keen to take advantage of Apple’s huge user base.

At WWDC 2017 in June, Apple, in response to Amazon and its smart “Echo” speaker, launched the HomePod, a Siri-powered speaker that can control HomeKit-enabled devices around your home.

The new speaker will go on sale in the UK and US in December and will cost $349 in the US and around £349 in the UK.

  • Apple HomePod preview: Say hello to Apple’s smart Siri speaker
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