Apple demands specially-certified chips & factories for HomeKit devices, report says

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in iPhone
One of the factors slowing down adoption of Apple's HomeKit platform is the company's demand that accessory makers not only buy specific chips, but have products manufactured at Apple-certified factories, a report said on Friday.




The chips required for a device to work with HomeKit cost between 50 cents and $2, though bulk buyers get discounts, developers told Reuters. Companies must also buy particular Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth chips said to cost more than alternatives.

Apple has a list of over 800 certified factories, only a few of them actually specialized in home automation technology, according to a leaked document. The selectiveness means that companies can't necessarily work with existing partners or get the best quotes.

Developers can ask Apple to certify additional factories, but this may be rejected. One startup told Reuters that it was considering HomeKit support for a temperature control device, but had its factory turned down despite it having 40,000 workers and counting popular "Star Wars" toys among its output.

"They're a huge company, a legitimate manufacturer that makes tech household brands. And yet they're not certified," the startup's founder said.

Finished product samples must be sent to Apple's home in Cupertino for compatibility testing, a process said to take three to five months -- during which companies can't announce that they're seeking HomeKit approval. The process appears much more stringent than Apple's "Made for i" program, which attempts to insure quality accessories for iOS devices.

Reuters noted that there are only about 100 HomeKit devices on the market, versus some 250 certified for Amazon's Alexa platform. Amazon, though, only requires that companies submit special software code for review, or if they want a "Works With Alexa" label, get hardware tested via a third-party lab. Once a product has both certifications, Amazon promises to decide on "Works With Alexa" status in 10 days or less.

Apple's approach is said to offer some benefits, such as a greater chance of catching flaws, and lower latency, since Alexa is heavily cloud-based. It can also easier to configure HomeKit devices, as Alexa adds the step of having to find and install "skills" for accessories.

An Amazon spokeswoman admitted that her company can't guarantee the security of third-party hardware, something Apple does. Alexa does, however, offer extra security for some commands -- like unlocking doors -- in the form of things like voice PINs.
cornchip
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    FatmanFatman Posts: 239member
    It's all about security. If you want your home hacked (locks, garage doors, routers, thermostats, etc)  then buy anything out there. Apple is trying to establish a model that at least lessens the chance of security breach - yes they make money doing it, but they also provide quality assurance and peace of mind to the customer. I do not see a correlation between a large factory that makes Star Wars toys and a factory having a proven capability of producing secure IOT chips and devices for home automation.
    blkhawk105AppleZuluJdmr1701Dreid1mike1SoliRayz2016StrangeDaysbrucemcstantheman
  • Reply 2 of 34
    Fatman said:
    It's all about security. If you want your home hacked (locks, garage doors, routers, thermostats, etc)  then buy anything out there. Apple is trying to establish a model that at least lessens the chance of security breach - yes they make money doing it, but they also provide quality assurance and peace of mind to the customer. I do not see a correlation between a large factory that makes Star Wars toys and a factory having a proven capability of producing secure IOT chips and devices for home automation.
    Exactly this!
    Jdmr1701Soli1983watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 34
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,609member
    Fatman said:
    It's all about security. If you want your home hacked (locks, garage doors, routers, thermostats, etc)  then buy anything out there. Apple is trying to establish a model that at least lessens the chance of security breach - yes they make money doing it, but they also provide quality assurance and peace of mind to the customer. I do not see a correlation between a large factory that makes Star Wars toys and a factory having a proven capability of producing secure IOT chips and devices for home automation.
    Exactly this!
    Second that.  Apple is the only brand I trust for secure home automation.
    Jdmr1701Soli1983cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 34
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    I'm very glad by this news. Should be stringent re home automation security and reliability. Bought a €699 Loewe AirPlay speaker a few years ago that I returned for its unreliable connection. Thankfully got it from Apple who promptly issued a full refund. Will be more careful next time I make such an investment.
    edited January 2017 Solicornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 34
    Fatman said:
    It's all about security. If you want your home hacked (locks, garage doors, routers, thermostats, etc)  then buy anything out there. Apple is trying to establish a model that at least lessens the chance of security breach - yes they make money doing it, but they also provide quality assurance and peace of mind to the customer. I do not see a correlation between a large factory that makes Star Wars toys and a factory having a proven capability of producing secure IOT chips and devices for home automation.
    Yep.
    Soliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 34
    mtbnutmtbnut Posts: 190member
    So does this mean we won't see HomeKit devices turned into commodity items, like the $3 PCIe video cards I can buy from companies like ApricotMaster Number 1 or ShenzenMasterTechFun at Fry's Electronics?! 

    I knew it was suspect when the documentation started out with the title "MANUEL"...
    cpsromike1Solicornchip
  • Reply 7 of 34
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,442member
    I'm glad somebody is taking this seriously.
    Solibrucemccornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 34
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,820member
    Apple has always licensed and sold the chips and connectors through the MFi program, since the first iPod. Wouldn't expect HomeKit to be handled any differently.
    patchythepiratecornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 34
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,549member
    From a security standpoint this is great, but this could mean that Google or Amazon could become the dominate player if people don’t care enough and the cost is too high. I hope the inconvenience of this additional certification and licensing isn't so high that security isn't taken seriously.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 34
    dachardachar Posts: 330member
    My order of a HomeKit upgraded internet bridge for my Tado heating system was originally due to ship late summer 2016. This dated has slipped a few times. Yesterday l recieved an update from Tado:

    We are just as excited as you to connect tado° to Apple HomeKit, and would like to apologise for the delay in launching the platform integration.

    In the past few weeks we have been able to solve the challenges posed by scaling up the production of the new Internet Bridge. Now we are waiting for the approval of our partners, who are responsible for the certification. We expect this to be completed in the next few weeks.

    The dispatch of the HomeKit-enabled Internet Bridges is expected to start in the second quarter of 2017.

    Assuming that Tado has picked the right certificated partners, the process of getting an Apple approval may have taken close to a  year longer than first planned. No doubt other manufacturers are also experiencing the same issue.
    Solicornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 34
    igorskyigorsky Posts: 422member
    Soli said:
    From a security standpoint this is great, but this could mean that Google or Amazon could become the dominate player if people don’t care enough and the cost is too high. I hope the inconvenience of this additional certification and licensing isn't so high that security isn't taken seriously.
    And if they do, so what?  Let them become kings of the low end, just like with Android.
    cornchipirelandRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 34
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,820member
    dachar said:
    My order of a HomeKit upgraded internet bridge for my Tado heating system was originally due to ship late summer 2016. This dated has slipped a few times. Yesterday l recieved an update from Tado:

    We are just as excited as you to connect tado° to Apple HomeKit, and would like to apologise for the delay in launching the platform integration.

    In the past few weeks we have been able to solve the challenges posed by scaling up the production of the new Internet Bridge. Now we are waiting for the approval of our partners, who are responsible for the certification. We expect this to be completed in the next few weeks.

    The dispatch of the HomeKit-enabled Internet Bridges is expected to start in the second quarter of 2017.

    Assuming that Tado has picked the right certificated partners, the process of getting an Apple approval may have taken close to a  year longer than first planned. No doubt other manufacturers are also experiencing the same issue.
    That's also why anybody who expected to see products 6 months after Apple announced Home Kit was completely delusional.
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 34
    Is there any indication Apple won't certify certain factories because those factories' worker policies aren't up to the standards that Apple would like to set for all the world's workers? In other words, will companies fail this certification process of they abuse workers' rights? If this is the case, I would fully expect the union representatives and workers' rights activists to applaud Apple for their work in this area, as well as immediately and without reservation recommend that all American consumers buy nothing but Apple products. Bahahahaaa! Who am I kidding? When it comes to activism, most people vote with their wallets, and they vote mostly in favor of cheap prices and immediate availability. I just hope HomeKit is able to weather this inconvenience.
    patchythepiratecornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 34
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,507member
    Right now, it would seem that "western societies" in general do not seem overly concerned by security or privacy issues at the consumer level.  Cheap (in terms of relevant products) and "free" (to them in terms of services) are what rule the roost.  Perhaps this will always be the case.  However, history has shown that such societal norms can change and do so relatively quickly.  The DDOS attacks, identity thefts and commercial thefts are increasing, and perhaps the public may change its tune. Apple is clearly taking out their ground as being "the" tech/consumer product company which values both of these things.  It might not pay off now, but it "could" be a big differentiator in the future.
    ration alradarthekatcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 34
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,109member
    I fully agree with security, but if their requirements are so stringent and onerous that they prevent devices from coming to market what's the point? Apple is already behind in the home automation game. If they keep delaying their market presence they risk becoming the Betamax of home automation; technically better but pushed out of the market by the sheer numbers of the 'inferior' standard. 

    Cost is another concern. Many people are unaware of the security differences, so if the additional costs of manufacturing, approval and limited market share make all the devices twice as much they will end up going with the cheaper option. If this happens too much then you risk having the cycle where the limited market share of HomeKit means fewer companies make devices, leading more people to choose competing systems.


    Solipatchythepirate
  • Reply 16 of 34
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,648member
    MplsP said:
    I fully agree with security, but if their requirements are so stringent and onerous that they prevent devices from coming to market what's the point? Apple is already behind in the home automation game. If they keep delaying their market presence they risk becoming the Betamax of home automation; technically better but pushed out of the market by the sheer numbers of the 'inferior' standard. 

    Cost is another concern. Many people are unaware of the security differences, so if the additional costs of manufacturing, approval and limited market share make all the devices twice as much they will end up going with the cheaper option. If this happens too much then you risk having the cycle where the limited market share of HomeKit means fewer companies make devices, leading more people to choose competing systems.


    Yes, Alexa is growing in popularity due in large part to HA.

    Coid HomeKit be the BetaMax of Home Automation?

    Hopefully Apple will release Echo competitor this year.
    edited January 2017
  • Reply 17 of 34
    Fatman said:
    It's all about security. If you want your home hacked (locks, garage doors, routers, thermostats, etc)  then buy anything out there. Apple is trying to establish a model that at least lessens the chance of security breach - yes they make money doing it, but they also provide quality assurance and peace of mind to the customer. I do not see a correlation between a large factory that makes Star Wars toys and a factory having a proven capability of producing secure IOT chips and devices for home automation.
    Is there any evidence that Apple is making any money directly from HomeKit?  What does it cost for Apple to run a certification process?  What do the chips cost to manufacture, ship. etc.  No, I suspect that the charge for the chips is perhaps breaking in or even below costs and the overall program may be running at a loss for Apple, as HomeKit adoption is hugely important to Apple's strategy and the benefit to Apple is in having the home as an integral part of its famous ecosystem.  
    ration alcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 34
    MplsP said:
    I fully agree with security, but if their requirements are so stringent and onerous that they prevent devices from coming to market what's the point? Apple is already behind in the home automation game. If they keep delaying their market presence they risk becoming the Betamax of home automation; technically better but pushed out of the market by the sheer numbers of the 'inferior' standard. 

    Cost is another concern. Many people are unaware of the security differences, so if the additional costs of manufacturing, approval and limited market share make all the devices twice as much they will end up going with the cheaper option. If this happens too much then you risk having the cycle where the limited market share of HomeKit means fewer companies make devices, leading more people to choose competing systems.

    Slow down and breathe Minneapolis Pete.  Their security policies are preventing devices from coming to market, there are already over a hundred HomeKit certified products. And please take a few minutes to do some basic comparison.  They aren't twice as expensive, and are usually the same or less.  It's growing steadily.  Finally, think about what you are suggesting.  That Apple should engage in the same reckless behavior as Amazon and enable companies that often have little or no meaningful security in place to rush out products.  For heaven's sake, there would be no meaning to being HomeKit compatible because people trust that Apple is building an ecosystem that protects their privacy and security.   Here's an article I urge you to read about the dangers that Amazon and others have brought to your homes and that Apple is trying to prevent.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-hack-shows-cybersecurity-importance-2016-10
    edited January 2017 ration alStrangeDaysirelandwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 34
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,109member
    Notsofast said:
    Slow down and breathe Minneapolis Pete.  Their security policies are preventing devices from coming to market, there are already over a hundred HomeKit certified products. And please take a few minutes to do some basic comparison.  They aren't twice as expensive, and are usually the same or less.  It's growing steadily.  Finally, think about what you are suggesting.  That Apple should engage in the same reckless behavior as Amazon and enable companies that often have little or no meaningful security in place to rush out products.  For heaven's sake, there would be no meaning to being HomeKit compatible because people trust that Apple is building an ecosystem that protects their privacy and security.   Here's an article I urge you to read about the dangers that Amazon and others have brought to your homes and that Apple is trying to prevent.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-hack-shows-cybersecurity-importance-2016-10

    I'm not trying to suggest that the security isn't important or that Apple should be reckless and abandon security - I was responding to what the article presented as very stringent, even onerous approval procedures for home kit devices and pointing out that if they make the approval process so long or difficult that it limits devices or increases their costs it could cripple what is still a fledgling market.

    Yes, I have in fact looked for home kit devices. I currently have a Nexia Z wave system in my house and was looking at switching it over but rapidly determined there was no way I could. Look at the number of z wave devices vs the number of HomeKit devices. Z wave dwarfs Home Kit. One of the considerations for people looking at these systems is what devices are available. If they don't see a good library of devices for Home Kit, many people will stop right there.

    Edit - did I really seem that worked up? this is pretty low on my list of concerns, so I sure hope not!
    edited January 2017
  • Reply 20 of 34
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    MplsP said:
    I fully agree with security, but if their requirements are so stringent and onerous that they prevent devices from coming to market what's the point? Apple is already behind in the home automation game. If they keep delaying their market presence they risk becoming the Betamax of home automation; technically better but pushed out of the market by the sheer numbers of the 'inferior' standard. 

    Cost is another concern. Many people are unaware of the security differences, so if the additional costs of manufacturing, approval and limited market share make all the devices twice as much they will end up going with the cheaper option. If this happens too much then you risk having the cycle where the limited market share of HomeKit means fewer companies make devices, leading more people to choose competing systems.


    Another concern is compatibility with devices already installed in people's homes. Apple HomeKit is a relative newcomer where other standards such as zwave and zigbee have been in use for many years. There are hubs such as SmartThings and Wink which can bridge between those standard to give the home owner a unified control point. This give you access to a much larger number of devices to add to your home automation. Apple doesn't offer, and will probably never offer, a hub that would allow a bridge to those standards. 

    Third party hubs could, theoretically, meet Apple's HomeKit certification standards for chips used, encryption, etc...except of one aspect. As I understand it Apple will not certify a device that would bridge to other technology standards. Supposedly, this might be because you could then add a non-secure device on the non-Apple side of the bridge which might compromise security (although zwave and zigbee devices can't connect to anything outside of your network, so any attack would have to be through the hub, which could be secured). Or it could just be that Apple doesn't want competition for the hub device in your home...go buy an Apple TV.

    Regardless of Apple's reasoning, this becomes a major impediment for those of use who have already invested in home automation technology if we have to throw out a large portion of our investment and purchase new, even more expensive, components to replace what we already have. And that's assuming equivalent HomeKit devices are even available. If I can't have a blended network, and if HomeKit doesn't have the devices I want, then HomeKit is a non-starter and my investment will continue to grow with non-HomeKit devices.
    edited January 2017
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