Apple made a critical change to HomeKit two years ago. It started allowing products to join its smart home ecosystem just by adding some code, instead of requiring them to build in a special-purpose chip.
The effects of that change have been slow to appear, but we’re finally starting to see them. The result is a lot more HomeKit products since it’s now far easier for companies to build support into new products, and old products can be updated to add support, too.
At CES, we saw a number of new and old gadgets adding HomeKit support — from the usual suspects like Ikea and Honeywell to some exciting new faces like LG and Sony. Here are the biggest products to look out for.
This one was a big surprise. Apple worked with TV manufacturers to add support for its streaming tech, AirPlay 2, and HomeKit. LG, Vizio, and Sony will all include HomeKit support on some of their newest TVs; Vizio will even add HomeKit support to some of its older models going back to 2016.
With the HomeKit integration, you’ll be able to use an iPhone to power the TVs on and off, change their inputs (this feature is particularly amazing because I’m always flipping between streaming devices), and make the TVs part of routines (a “movie” routine could turn the TV on and dim your connected lights). Some combination of HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support also means you’ll be able to control the TVs with Siri, too.
Here’s a list of all the sets that are adding support.
DOORBELLS AND LOCKS
Apple has been slow to integrate product categories that other smart home systems raced to approve, but it’s finally bringing smart doorbells into the fold. The first comes from Netatmo, which actually made a pretty neat one.
It’s a little on the big side, but it has an interesting style and, unlike some competitors, it actually looks like a doorbell. The best part is its video is stored on a microSD card, so you don’t need to pay for cloud storage. 9to5Mac spotted that a Dutch company called Robin Telecom announced a HomeKit doorbell as well, but so far, details are limited.
A couple more locks were added to the HomeKit system this week. Kwikset announced a new style of its Premis smart lock that’s supposed to look a bit more modern, and Mighton introduced Avia, a smart lock for multipoint locking doors, which are rare in the US.
Smart plugs may not be the most exciting smart gadget, but they’re staples of the burgeoning smart home. And CES saw the addition of a couple more: TP-Link said it would update its very good Kasa Smart Plug Mini with HomeKit support (I have two at home, and they work well), and Eve announced that its three-plug power strip would come out in March for $119.
Lighting was as all over the place this year. The catchiest — and least necessary — announcement came from Nanoleaf, which debuted hexagonal tiles that can glow in any different color. It’s far from my own style, but it’s definitely something a hotel lobby or someone with an intense gaming rig could have a lot of fun with.
Belkin announced new in-wall light switch options for its Wemo system. The big news here is that they no longer require a Wemo hub to use; they can connect straight to HomeKit. And Philips Hue, which does require a hub, added more outdoor lights and an outdoor motion sensor.
Brilliant also said that it would update its fancy touchscreen light switch system with HomeKit support, and GE said (again) that its C Reach hub would finally be updated with HomeKit support. That one’s already been delayed repeatedly, so… we’ll see.
AROUND THE HOUSE
Then there’s the eclectic category of every other little thing you can imagine putting around your home. The really big news was that Ikea plans to start shipping its first smart blinds in the US on April 1st, which should go on sale in the mid-$100 price range. They work with HomeKit, and they ought to be one of the cheapest options for smart blinds, period.
OneLink showed a new version of its smoke detector / speaker, which will now also double (triple?) as a mesh Wi-Fi router. And Honeywell had a couple of new thermostats that are supposed to get HomeKit later this year.
HomeKit has taken its time expanding out to more gadgets and more partners, but wider support for it is finally starting to show. And for iPhone owners, there’s still no easier way of setting up a smart home gadget, which is more than enough to keep HomeKit in the running against Alexa and the Google Assistant.