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Apple HomeKit products are ready to help you build a smart home

New selection of devices on the market let you control and automate lighting, climate and more through your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 June, 2015, 11:06am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:33pm

It’s been a year since Apple first announced HomeKit and, after months of anticipation, products based on the home automation system are finally being rolled out. A pair of lighting kits from Lutron and a HomeKit-compatible hub for Insteon’s smart home system are now available, while other software developers,  such as Elgato, Ecobee and iHome, have announced that they will be releasing accessories as early as July.

Apple first mentioned HomeKit at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, allowing companies to build apps that can interact with other hardware through a common network protocol. While home automation is not a new market - there are countless companies creating and developing new apps and devices every day - the glaring problem is that they all use different wireless protocols, so only a handful of these devices can interact with each other.

HomeKit is Apple’s smart home solution, and most likely its answer to Google’s acquisition of Nest for US$3.2 billion last year. HomeKit seeks to introduce a standard for devices such as programmable lights, plugs, energy and climate sensors, and thermostats, and allows the user to control everything via any iOS device, whether it is their iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. This means that users can turn on lights, open garage doors or activate the air conditioning with the swipe of a finger or a voice command to Siri, Apple’s intelligent personal assistant.

Lighting control manufacturer Lutron released its Home Control+ app, a HomeKit compatible app that lets you control lights, shades and temperature from anywhere on your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, or by giving Siri a command. The app is also available on Android devices. The apps control Lutron’s HomeWorks QS total home control systems. The system is highly customisable, with prices ranging from HK$30,000 to HK$100,000.

Setting up the HomeWorks take minutes, and from then on, you can enjoy the convenience of remotely controlled or automated devices. Turn on the air conditioning a half-hour before you arrive home from work, for example, or use geofencing so that lights switch on automatically when someone enters a room.

Similarly, Insteon offers a simple and straightforward smart home hub that integrates with its pool of devices, allowing you to connect to your home from your Apple devices no matter where you are in the world. Available now through Amazon.com and Smarthome.com for US$149.99, the product will be available in retail stores in early July. Apart from controlling lights and appliances from your smartphone or tablet, Insteon also allows you to create schedules and build scenes to simultaneously control multiple devices, including cameras, alarms, smart bulbs and thermostats.

Elgato’s Eve sensors are  available for pre-order on its company website. Eve lets you gain insight into your home by displaying data on air quality, temperature, humidity, air pressure and energy consumption on your iPhone and iPad. The four products include Eve Room (US$79.95), which senses indoor air quality, temperature and humidity; Eve Weather (US$49.96), which can be installed outdoors to sense temperature, humidity and air pressure; Eve Door & Window (US$39.95), which can tell whether your doors and windows are open or shut; and the Europe-only Eve Energy (€49.94, or HK$436), which can instantly tell how much energy your home devices are using.

The Ecobee3 is a smart Wi-fi thermostat with a remote sensor that will regulate temperature on its own or allow the user to manually control it via satellite sensors. Priced at US$249, the product will be available in July.

iHome has unveiled the iDevices Switch, a HomeKit-enabled smart power plug that boasts to be user-friendly and secure.