HomeKit and Vera - what am I missing?

I’m trying to figure out why Vera (or other home automation hubs) haven’t released a controller that also serves as a HomeKit bridge. One company announced such a hub at CES (Mixtile), but they’ve been radio silent since then.

As far as I can tell, HomeKit does support the concept of a ‘bridge’ that exposes other devices to HomeKit. In fact, there are software implementations (like homebridge-vera), that work quite well but require you to run a Linux server.

I’m sure there are licensing fees and development costs associated with building an Apple certified HomeKit bridge, but I’m surprised that no vendor has done this yet. I think they would sell like crazy.

Hi,

On the US apple shop there is one from Lutron, but the limited number of devices for HomeKit is probably why there is no crazy in the selling.

Cheers Rene

Among other restrictive rules, Apple HomeKit requires a dedicated piece of hardware embedded, to pass certification.

Understood. How much does that hardware cost per unit? Let’s say it was $20. I would happily pay an extra $20 (or more) for a Vera hub that was HomeKit certified, just for the Siri integration alone.

Ditto - so that Vera can communicate with my First Alert Wi-Fi smoke/carbon monoxide alarm. I can see it on my Home app on my iPhone, but without Vera Homekit emulation, I cannot get alerts from Vera.

There has got to be a market for early Z-Wave/Zigbee adopters who want to take part in the HomeKit ecosystem without replacing every single light switch, sensor, etc. etc.

Again, I think there must be some significant hurdles that I’m not aware of (I can’t believe the additional hardware cost alone would deter at least one vendor from capitalizing on this).

And while I’ll probably buy whichever hub releases this support first, I’d love it to be Vera in part because it already supports all the devices I use today.

A really good article on the subject: https://www.howtogeek.com/232235/htg-explains-why-does-apples-homekit-require-all-new-hardware/

"Apple requires that all consumer products under the HomeKit umbrella either directly meet the requirements for HomeKit-certification or that their controlling bridges/hubs meet the requirements for HomeKit-certification.

As such if you happen to have invested heavily in a popular home automation hardware system with active vendor development you?re most likely in luck (where as if you purchased a hodgepodge of no-name stuff off eBay you?re likely out of luck)."

Hi dckiwi,

Good article. It also explains why your existing Vera will never meet the HomeKit requirements. Apple depends a specific bit of encryption hardware to be present. So Vera can opt to include that in a future model for people interested in HomeKit, and charge something extra for that model. I find the use case still to limited as long as it will only work with Apple products to start with. (I stopped using Apple after my Apple II GS like 25 years ago :smiley: )

Cheers Rene

Like Rene, I have no interest in linking apple kit to my Vera or using Siri. If this needs a particular piece of hardware then make it available to those who want it as an add on device. In reality, how many people would really want this.

Two and a half years ago, I panned HomeKit as an Apple money/power grab. Virtually nothing has changed since then.

I have zero interest in Apple inserting their proprietary framework and its requirements into any of my devices. I have even less interest in paying an increased “Apple tax”, for no benefit. Apparently many “hub” manufacturers feel the same way.

[quote=“Z-Waver, post:10, topic:195810”]Two and a half years ago, I panned HomeKit as an Apple money/power grab. Virtually nothing has changed since then.

I have zero interest in Apple inserting their proprietary framework and its requirements into any of my devices. I have even less interest in paying an increased “Apple tax”, for no benefit. Apparently many “hub” manufacturers feel the same way.[/quote]

I appreciate your perspective. A couple of thoughts on this:

  1. I’m a realist. Home automation has been a niche market, and will remain that way until a big technology player takes it mainstream. I believe that more and more hardware manufacturers will gravitate towards HomeKit over Zigbee/Z-wave/etc as that will be where the mass market is. You and I may enjoy setting up a Z-wave network, but your average homeowner wants something that is plug-and-play. I am already starting to buy HomeKit enabled devices over Z-Wave because I think this transition is inevitable. That said, there will be a market for <-> HomeKit (or Alexa or Google Now) bridges for years to come, given the current install base.

  2. Have you used HomeKit? Specifically the Home app? I find it fairly telling that Apple was able to build a better user home automation user interface in their first release, while I have yet to find a slick, mature mobile interface for Vera products. Some of this is because Apple has an unfair advantage and can embed controls into Siri, Control Center, etc. Regardless, you should at least take a look at it before you deride the entire ecosystem.

  3. You made the point that HomeKit is proprietary. I would argue that this is true for all home automation systems. Although Z-Wave is an open standard, for example, I am now quite reliant on plugins or features that are very specific to Vera hubs. And the same goes for other home automation hubs.

Anyway, time will tell. I suspect some enterprising companies will add HomeKit support to their hubs.

As you said, if you really are interested in integrating Homekit, you can. Just like for Alexa, I actually think the bridge offers more flexibility than you would with an official vendor integration.
I am actually fairly happy with the integration set up I currently have. Would not see any benefit from an official one. The key for me is localizing what I can and avoid this cloud to cloud insanity.

[quote=“rafale77, post:12, topic:195810”]As you said, if you really are interested in integrating Homekit, you can. Just like for Alexa, I actually think the bridge offers more flexibility than you would with an official vendor integration.
I am actually fairly happy with the integration set up I currently have. Would not see any benefit from an official one. The key for me is localizing what I can and avoid this cloud to cloud insanity.[/quote]

Interesting. Which HomeKit bridge(s) are you using? I’ve tried both homebridge-vera (https://github.com/damianxd/homebridge-vera) and VeraHomeKitBridge (https://github.com/Hackworth/VeraHomeKitBridge).

homebridge-vera seems to be more actively supported, but I had issues with it. Specifically, I could turn lights off using the Home app but they wouldn’t turn back on.

Would love to hear more about your bridge implementation. I’d also like to get one of these running on a raspberry pi so I don’t have to keep my main computer up.

[quote=“dckiwi, post:13, topic:195810”][quote=“rafale77, post:12, topic:195810”]As you said, if you really are interested in integrating Homekit, you can. Just like for Alexa, I actually think the bridge offers more flexibility than you would with an official vendor integration.
I am actually fairly happy with the integration set up I currently have. Would not see any benefit from an official one. The key for me is localizing what I can and avoid this cloud to cloud insanity.[/quote]

Interesting. Which HomeKit bridge(s) are you using? I’ve tried both homebridge-vera (https://github.com/damianxd/homebridge-vera) and VeraHomeKitBridge (https://github.com/Hackworth/VeraHomeKitBridge).

homebridge-vera seems to be more actively supported, but I had issues with it. Specifically, I could turn lights off using the Home app but they wouldn’t turn back on.

Would love to hear more about your bridge implementation. I’d also like to get one of these running on a raspberry pi so I don’t have to keep my main computer up.[/quote]

I’ve tried both. The one by Hackworth… I actually even contributed code although I am not a coder by trade or training at all. Unfortunately it has gone stale although I honestly wouldn’t know what else to add to it besides maybe an interface to pick out what devices the bridge broadcast one by one. The issue I have with that bridge is that it broadcasts all devices from the Vera and can crash homekit if you have too many… (I have over 200 devices). I hardcoded my bridge to only broadcast locks, lights. No scene, no sensor of any kind.
The homebridge one is newer and I found, when I tested it a few months back, less mature. There were still issues here and there. Not sure where it is at now. It’s advantage is that it can bridge more than the Vera. It all depends on how you want to architect your network. I made the Vera the central hub to which everything connects to. If you use homebridge you can create another hub connecting to other devices directly without the vera. Anyway, I am running all my bridges on a single ubuntu VM on my NAS. I actually have the echo bridge, the homekit bridge, the Mary TTS server, a Sonos http API server, and airsonos all running on different ports. I am sure you can do the same on a pie. That’s what I had before deciding to just use a VM.
I don’t use the Home app on ios. I found it to be a bit buggy. I only use Siri which works very well. It is the whole point of Homekit to me anyway. I can come home and voice command my door to unlock with my phone (after unlocking the phone of course). If I want to push buttons, I use the Homewave app.

That’s not what HomeKit is. Zigbee and Z-Wave are communication protocols used by devices to talk to each other. HomeKit is a programming framework used to provide a high level command structure that sits above the communication protocols, for all intents and purposes, an Application Programming Interface(API). One of the intentions of HomeKit is to allow Apple App programmers to issue commands to devices, regardless of the underlying device protocol. For example, TurnOnBulb would be used to turn on a light regardless of whether the bulb was Z-Wave, Zgibee or WiFi. Apple Apps use the same command and the HomeKit enabled device controller translates the Apple command into the command appropriate for that specific device.

HomeKit is literally another layer of obfuscation between the user and the device. It is a renaming of every single command or variable. It literally adds nothing, no capability, no functionality nothing to the device. It just inserts Apple in between the user and the device. A convenient gateway, where Apple gets to charge a toll and deny access to competitors.

Sure, it makes for quicker App development for iPhones and their programmers, it allows interfacing with Siri under Apples strict access control and competitive restrictions. But it blocks other companies and technologies, like Androids, unless they pay Apple the gatekeeper.

2) Have you used HomeKit? Specifically the Home app? I find it fairly telling that Apple was able to build a better user home automation user interface in their first release
Yes, I have used the HomeApp. But, the HomeApp uses HomeKit, it is not itself HomeKit. Nor is the HomeApp a home automation system. The HomeApp is a remote control App. The HomeApp is not a home automation system that allows complex logic and automated control of the entire system. The HomeApp is also IOS10 specific, no Android, no older iPads, no other devices. Just new Apple devices.

That’s not a terrible thing in itself. Like I said, it’s just an App and not a home automation system, it’s not even a controller hub. It’s just a pretty remote control skin. There’s no reason that someone couldn’t build an equally pretty control panel for any of the existing controllers and protocols. The whys of how they’ve failed to do so is an entirely different matter based on taste, desires, willingness to exert effort…

My point though, is that Apple hasn’t invented some great thing or technology and others are failing to adopt it, as you seem to think. Apple has simply put a pretty skin for their own devices, over everyone else’s technologies and then chosen to charge a toll to travel between the user and the device.

The “simplicity” and ease of use comes at the price or incapability and absence of features. That does indeed work for many people. Especially superficial users that just want a neat remote control. But, for those wanting a complete home automation system that does everything automatically and stays out of the way, that “simplicity” translates to ineffective.

3) You made the point that HomeKit is proprietary. I would argue that this is true for all home automation systems.
Very true, they are almost all proprietary and all of the manufacturers are still attempting to build their own walled gardens excluding all others in their money grab. They are all still ignoring the need for interoperability and thinking that their one system will dominate the market, Hue, Wink, Revolv, SmartThings... But, that doesn't mean that Apple adding yet another wall garden is a good thing for anyone except Apple. And as I've alluded, it doesn't bring anything new to the table. It doesn't bring a better bulb or a more reliable connection to bulbs or anything or the sort. It just relabels everything and charges for the use of the new label. You the user see it as bringing ease of use, but that ease of use is due to the limited feature set and devices available. Nest thermostats provide great ease of use, but when you're only controlling a thermostat things are pretty simple. When you're trying to control all devices in a home, it gets much more complicated and ease of use starts to fall away pretty quickly.
Although Z-Wave is an open standard, for example, I am now quite reliant on plugins or features that are very specific to Vera hubs.
Z-Wave is in no way an open standard. In fact, Z-Wave is one of the most, if not the most, closed and licensed protocols in the home automation industry. It also has nothing to do with Vera. Vera is simply a proprietary third party controller that has chosen to license and use the Z-Wave protocol form Sigma Designs, as many others have. They choose Z-Wave because, so far, it is the protocol that has demonstrated itself to have the most complete/robust feature set and the highest level of interoperability between other Z-Wave devices. Z-Wave is a wall garden that is succeeding with wide adoption because it is a better technology than the rest, so far. Zigbee was meant to be the open solution to supplant Z-Wave, but Zigbee's openness and lack of definition has created a very high degree of incompatibility between manufacturers, thus Z-Wave is still highly regarded and the generally preferred protocol.

Apple could easily add a Z-Wave controller to their product line. They could easily stick a Z-Wave chip into an Apple TV box, or a discreet device. But, they’d have to pay Sigma Designs a license fee for every Z-Wave chip sold, and ‘Apple don’ play dat!’. Why should Vera, Homeseer, SmartThings, Wink, Hue, and every other device manufacturer license Apples API instead of Apple simply offering a Z-Wave capable hub with their precious HomeKit included? I genuinely don’t understand why Apple haven’t. It would be an easy and relatively cheap way for them to grab a not insignificant chunk of the home automation market. Beyond stubbornness, I see no reason why Apple doesn’t. Unless they’re afraid that their simplicity and ease of use would start to crack once they had to deal with compatibility issues in Z-Wave and Zigbee bulbs or getting the new super-duper Z-Wave touch panel to work reliably.

None the less, your stated reliance on Vera and Vera plugins is entirely your choice. You can choose to use any of the half dozen major competing home automation systems that also support Z-Wave with your devices. Some have argued that some of those other systems are technically superior to Vera in every way. You simple choose to remain reliant on Ver.

But, in my view, you are now also choosing to be reliant on Apple and HomeKit. If you remain reliant on HomeKit and decide next year that the Samsung Galaxy 8 “now with unicorns” is the smart phone to have and abandon your iPhone, your HomeKit infrastructure is immediately unusable. Heck, if you drop your iPhone, your HomeKit system is non-existent. You rail at one system for being limiting, but embrace the other system that is actually even more limiting.

Anyway, time will tell. I suspect some enterprising companies will add HomeKit support to their hubs.
No doubt some will. The Apple user market is significant and someone is bound to decide that the price of admission is worthwhile in order to gain access to Apple users. But, after nearly three years, that hasn't happened yet. Meanwhile other companies are rapidly expanding Siri challengers with much lower barriers to third parties that want access to it. Why, pay Apple and endure their limitations when there are competing, perhaps better technologies than Siri(as if Siri is the future of HA), that are cheaper to use and have a larger market. As of Q2 2016 Apple's IOS had a 13% and declining market share as compared to Android at 86%. Apple also has zero home automation devices. All Apple has in the home automation market is an App and an arrogant attitude. An Attitude so strong that even I just wasted a page explaining that HomeKit is "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Long post that I don’t really have time to respond to, but I would say this:

HomeKit is just another home automation framework, no different from Z-Wave, Zigbee, Hue, etc. They aren’t adding an additional layer. A manufacturer could develop a light switch that only speaks HomeKit, or that speaks HomeKit and Z-wave, etc. etc.

So I’m not sure why the hostility towards this particular ecosystem, versus the 10 other ecosystems that already exist. And I also don’t quite get the hostility to building a bridge between HomeKit and other home automation systems. No one is asking you to use it, but I don’t think you should get repulsed at the idea of a HomeKit bridge existing. Were you outraged when Vera added Zigbee support?

Oh and PS:

"Why should Vera, Homeseer, SmartThings, Wink, Hue, and every other device manufacturer license Apples API instead of Apple simply offering a Z-Wave capable hub with their precious HomeKit included? I genuinely don’t understand why Apple haven’t. It would be an easy and relatively cheap way for them to grab a not insignificant chunk of the home automation market. Beyond stubbornness, I see no reason why Apple doesn’t. "

I totally agree! When I ask ‘why hasn’t anyone built a bridge?’, I am including Apple in that question.

Apple want’s 30% of anything that it touches … If you build for HomeKit you need to surrender 30%.
If you build for HomeKit and something else … they want 30% of that which is using the something else …
Tha’s why you do not see much happening on HomeKit … the clearly have the skills … they just have a deadly business model.

“If you build for HomeKit you need to surrender 30%.”

lol source please.

[quote=“dckiwi, post:17, topic:195810”]Oh and PS:

"Why should Vera, Homeseer, SmartThings, Wink, Hue, and every other device manufacturer license Apples API instead of Apple simply offering a Z-Wave capable hub with their precious HomeKit included? I genuinely don’t understand why Apple haven’t. It would be an easy and relatively cheap way for them to grab a not insignificant chunk of the home automation market. Beyond stubbornness, I see no reason why Apple doesn’t. "

I totally agree! When I ask ‘why hasn’t anyone built a bridge?’, I am including Apple in that question.[/quote]
I tried to answer your question with my opinion and subsequently gave you point by point responses at length. You chose to dismiss it all as not worth your time and then frame it as hostility towards HomeKit. That’s fine, I suppose.

But, I don’t care enough about HomeKit to be hostile. It is virtually certain that I will not be using it anymore and I’m confident that it will fall by the wayside along with so many other Home Automation darlings that have failed for whatever reason.

My thinking remains, if Apple and Apple users want HomeKit, let Apple build it and their customers pay for it. I still see zero reason for any third party to pay Apple a toll.

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