The state of the Apple HomeKit market: Apple's smart-home ecosystem has yet to coalesce

The smart home space remains the domain of the early adopter, but Apple's HomeKit market is more scattered than most.

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What HomeKit encompasses

HomeKit hardware is available across many categories. We’ve reviewed relatively little of it so far at TechHive and our sibling site Macworld, but these are the devices that have had the most positive general response from users and other reviewers. (Apple has a complete list of certified devices on its site.)

Lighting: Seemingly the most desired bit of home control is lighting. That might be because remotely controlling groups of lights before smart-home systems was expensive and complicated to install and operate.

Philips largely owns this category with its Hue products, which center around individually addressable LED bulbs, which can be purchased in dimmable soft white (2700K), an ambient white that can shift across the color temperature range, and a bulb that combines ambient white features with the ability to use of shift through millions of colors.Hue requires a Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 to work with HomeKit.

Philips Hue Color and Ambiance Starter Kit Philips

Philips is the undisputed market leader in the smart home lighting market, thanks to its Hue series of products. Its second-generation hub is HomeKit compatible.

You can find more esoteric HomeKit-compatible options, like the Nanoleaf Smart Ivy, which takes a rather different approach to redesigning a lightbulb’s appearance. Or you can get screw-in controllers that fit into a bulb socket, such as the iDevices’ Socket, which can dim a bulb and has a built-in controllable accent color ring.

Other companies make light switches and dimmers that can replace the ones you already have in your walls to control any light, though without the incredible granularity of a Hue. Lutron Caséta offers both in-wall and plug-in replacements, as does Leviton.

Electrical outlets: Several companies offer in-wall and plug-in outlet replacements:

  • ConnectSense’s Smart Outlet has two separately controlled AC outlets, plus a USB charging port.

  • iDevices has its generically named Switch (plug-in), Wall Outlet (in-wall), and Wall Switch (in-wall). It also offers a weather-resistent Outdoor Switch.

  • iHome has three models of Smartplug, which sport a single output and plug into an existing socket.

  • Elgato (Eve Energy), Incipio (CommandKit), Kogogeek (Smart Plug), and Parce (Parce One) all make variants on a plug-in module that allows control over its single outlet while monitoring power usage through it.

Thermostat: The Nest was the first smart-home device to make a real splash, and you have several options for options with HomeKit. (Some you might find in search aren’t available in the U.S.)

Ecobee3 Ecobee

The Ecobee3 is one of the best smart thermostats on the market.

Alarm: As with all alarm components and systems that can notify you of a problem, it requires an active internet connection at home; some advanced conventional alarm systems use a battery-backed cellular modem as a backup. Burglars might cut your cable, phone, or fiber, or you might have a power outage or network outage that could prevent signaling. With that in mind, you can add many kinds of peace of mind very inexpensively, even on top of an existing alarm.

iHome offers the SmartMonitor, which monitors for motion, temperature, light, sound, and humidity. (Similar devices that omit motion sensors are listed under “specialized,” below.) Honeywell’s Lyric series includes a water leak and freeze detector as well as a home security system. Fibaro also has a leak sensor. Elgato’s Eve series includes a door/window contact sensor and a motion sensor.

Entry lock: Being able to unlock a door remotely, share access to it with a visitor, or get into your house when you have your smartphone (a crucial thing) and locked yourself out has a lot of value in saved time and fuss—and the cost of a locksmith.

The August Smart Lock retrofits onto an existing deadbolt lock’s inside portion, allowing it to still be unlocked with a key. Schlage’s Sense Smart Deadbolt requires complete replacement, but includes Bluetooth and HomeKit integration, a keypad, and a regular keyhole. If you have multiple Kwikset deadbolts that are keyed alike, Kwikset’s new Premis entry lock can be instantly rekeyed to match them. Yale will offer a HomeKit network module by the end of March that will enable its line of Yale Real Living Assure locks to work with HomeKit.

kwikset premis Kwikset

You can ask Siri to lock or unlock Kwikset’s new Premis smart entry lock.

Specialized: We should start seeing a greater variety of HomeKit devices that don’t fit into a single category or that offer controlling more outlying home features.

Netatmo’s Health Home Coach monitors indoor air for quality, humidity, temperature, and noise. It’s supposed to help you improve the quality and health of your house.

A similar device in Elgato’s Eve Room series, the Wireless Indoor Sensor, measures air quality, temperature, and humidity. There’s also an outdoor weather station version.

Hunter advertises its integration with HomeKit for SimpleConnect ceiling fans, which can be programmed for temperature control, light activation, and simulating someone at home while you’re away.

The smart home remains a hard sell

One of the big selling points in the past of home automation and remote control has been saving money by better controlling the home environment to respond to what you need and when you need it. So far, we’re not seeing enough full integration in the HomeKit world to make that case, except for thermostats. A better investment to reduce electrical bills is switching to LED bulbs, which also reduces your future bulb replacement costs due to their long lives.

Despite what is estimated to be at least tens of millions of smart-home accessories already sold—mostly in the thermostat category—there’s a lot of room to grow. And to wait! Blake Kozak, a principal analyst who tracks smart home and security technology trends at the research firm IHS Markit recently predicted that the penetration of smart home systems will reach just 3 percent by the year 2018, and only 7 percent by 2025.

If you want to be an early adopter, most everything discussed here can be plugged in or screwed in, or if you prefer the built-in look, you can replace your existing hardwired switches or outlets with HomeKit models. You’ll at least be able to operate them manually if you decide to give up on HomeKit down the road. And if Apple itself bails on HomeKit, it’s likely that one or more manufacturers will come forward with a bridge that enables HomeKit devices to communicate using whatever smart-home protocol ultimately wins the day.

In the meantime, you can definitely enjoy living a little in the future, but it’s likely big price drops are to come if the market for HomeKit products develops.

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