Apple open-sources HomeKit Accessory Development Kit to spur adoption, grow new standard

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2020
Apple has published an open-source version of its HomeKit Accessory Development Kit, allowing more users to experiment with the development of HomeKit accessories. The release is designed to accelerate development of a new universal smart home standard created by a consortium of companies including Apple, Amazon, Google and the Zigbee Alliance.

Apple's Home app
Apple's Home app


Portions of the HomeKit Accessory Development Kit (ADK), tools used by vendors and accessory makers to build HomeKit-compatible devices, were posted to GitHub by Apple on Wednesday, the company announced in a post to its developer webpage.

The HomeKit Open Source ADK can be used by anyone to prototype smart home devices. Ambitious users who want to build HomeKit devices for their own home can use it get started, for example. Accessory manufacturers can also use the open-source ADK to test products before formally joining the HomeKit MFi program, enabling proof-of-concept evaluations before embarking on the laborious and expensive process of becoming an MFi partner.

Apple notes individuals and companies planning to sell HomeKit-compatible accessories must use the commercial version of the kit supplied by the Apple MFi program. Still, providing open-source access to key bits of code hints at a major shift in the tech giant's smart home strategy and could ultimately boost the number of HomeKit contributors.






Apple released the Accessory Development Kit for partners in the MFi program in 2018. Contained within the ADK is the HomeKit Accessory Protocol, a part of the HomeKit accessory logic that communicates with the HomeKit platform. Apple made this available to all developers with iOS 12 that same year.

Since then, companies or individuals looking to test out HomeKit only had access to the HomeKit Accessory Protocol and were responsible for all of the accessory logic, adopting the protocol and much more. For those in the MFi program, the ADK stripped away much of the hassle, greatly simplifying the process.

At the time, Apple said with the ADK a functional prototype device could be created within a week and companies would be able to bring an accessory to market in as little as three months.

Now, the ADK is available to everyone, not just those in the MFi program.

On Wednesday, Apple announced the formation of Project Connected Home Over IP, a consortium of companies that hope to develop an open standard that allows manufacturers to more easily build devices that work on multiple smart home platforms and assistants. That could include platforms such as Amazon's Alexa as well as Apple's HomeKit.

Apple said it open-sourced its HomeKit ADK "to accelerate the development of the new universal standard." Further, the company also plans to contribute the HomeKit Accessory Protocol to the working group.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    Sadly, Apple is so far behind in this category. I'm not sure why Google, Amazon or others would want to work on Project Connected Home. The unstable iOS 13 update for HomeKit this fall has made me re-think HomeKit. 
    davgregwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 23
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,110member
    gtj333 said:
    Sadly, Apple is so far behind in this category. I'm not sure why Google, Amazon or others would want to work on Project Connected Home. The unstable iOS 13 update for HomeKit this fall has made me re-think HomeKit. 
    If Apple is “far behind” (it’s not among iOS users), it is because Google et al have saturated the market with low-cost loss leaders that are far less secure and do not protect a user’s privacy. 

    No thanks, I’ll stick with the ecosystem that is allegedly “far behind.”
    GeorgeBMaclkruppmike1hmurchisonsupadav03StrangeDayschialolliverRayz2016beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 3 of 23
    HomeKit has been a failure for quite some time. Happy to see that Apple is finally taking note of this fact. (Note : I'm not saying that HomeKit doesn't work well, but it needs a market presence. And right now, HomeKit-designed devices are scarce. Many were promised, few were actually delivered. And most by big companies, few by innovative ones.)
    edited December 2019 razorpitMplsPdavgregwatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 23
    All of the millions of Black Friday plastic hockey pucks that Amazon has sold and continues to sell will end up as ocean garbage since they will not have the hardware required to support the new secure protocol. Apple has had a slow HomeKit adoption rate - but not just due to initial poor software implementation, promotion, and proprietary tech - but also due to push back from vendors who take short cuts and don’t care enough about customer security to spend additional money in the required hardware and software development - thus currently sold devices will also become obsolete. The good news is that the titans of tech are joining forces to pool resources to eventually evolve these devices from the current toys and gadgets that they are now to real home products that consumers can ‘invest in’,  ‘trust’, and that hopefully will last. And of course the titans will all benefit financially from this good deed.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    The main problem for home automation has long been the lack of a standardised communication protocol. Zigbee is one of the most used, and obviously the one with the most traction, but it has limitations too. So the creation of a standardisation body where both Zigbee and Apple are present makes me hopeful that a more secure, more connected standard will happen. Here’s hoping that this project will not take a “Taligent” tangent.
    razorpitsupadav03StrangeDayschiaFileMakerFellerlolliverbeowulfschmidtwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 23
    Good move Apple. Get it done already though. 

    I get it, don’t compromise on the security, but for the love of God, get on with it. I've got a very limited understanding of what’s involved in making HomeKit products but it’s almost feeling like FireWire.... wilting on the vine. 

    I’ve been waiting to see products and HomeKit mature for the Australian market before I jump in. I always figured they will get it sorted eventually but the thought of HomeKit becoming a FireWire like thing of the past before it gets an enough critical mass has entered my head.

    If what they’ve done with the this open source thing gets small players involved, that’s great. The way it is at the moment, only the big players can afford to develop anything and that’s not good news for small markets like ours.
    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    kitatit said:
    Good move Apple. Get it done already though. 

    I get it, don’t compromise on the security, but for the love of God, get on with it. I've got a very limited understanding of what’s involved in making HomeKit products but it’s almost feeling like FireWire.... wilting on the vine. 

    I’ve been waiting to see products and HomeKit mature for the Australian market before I jump in. I always figured they will get it sorted eventually but the thought of HomeKit becoming a FireWire like thing of the past before it gets an enough critical mass has entered my head.

    If what they’ve done with the this open source thing gets small players involved, that’s great. The way it is at the moment, only the big players can afford to develop anything and that’s not good news for small markets like ours.

    Converely, I would say:   BAD move Apple!
    I too have a limited understanding of what all is involved.   But, rather than open up that box wider I would have rather seen Apple bring it in to hold it closer to their chest in either of two ways:
    1)  And the most preferable:   For Apple to jump into the market with both feet and create and market ALL of the hardware and software from Homekit on the iPhone or Apple Watch through the home router / WiFi all the way to the camera, light bulb, door opener or door lock, etc....   I.e., a one-stop shop for all your home automation needs.

    2)  Or, barring #1 above:   Heavy and extensive support of third parties developing home automation products and think of them as partners rather than developers....

    But, alas, neither seems to be happening and instead we have a hodge-podge of expensive, quasi-compatible products.

    Knowing that Apple typically knows what it's doing and makes the right long-term decisions, as a home owner -- especially an older one -- I would welcome a maturing of this market.   For instance:   On Fridays I deliver Meals-On-Wheels to seniors and younger, disabled people and those who are unable to get to the door in a timely manner are forced to simply leave their doors unlocked and we know to simply walk in and put it in the assigned place.  Another problem is when somebody who normally comes to the door does not answer it:  We don't know if they are away, sleeping or dead.  Generally we have our manager call an emergency contact to notify them -- but it is a very weak system for monitoring a vulnerable population.

    A fully developed home automation system could mitigate many problems of vulnerable people living in their own homes (as they should be!).  But instead it seems that the market and its technology are just spinning its wheels and going nowhere fast.   (Pretty lighting that changes colors is, well, pretty, but doesn't do much otherwise.)
    kitatitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,126member
    pascal007 said:
    The main problem for home automation has long been the lack of a standardised communication protocol. Zigbee is one of the most used, and obviously the one with the most traction, but it has limitations too. So the creation of a standardisation body where both Zigbee and Apple are present makes me hopeful that a more secure, more connected standard will happen. Here’s hoping that this project will not take a “Taligent” tangent.
    Not really. The main problem with “home automation” is the proliferation of NIH (not invented here) disease in the developer community and companies NIH afflicted engineers and marketers work for. 

    There are generally three technical strategies that developers can employ when they set about to bring a new product or system to market. 

    1) They can adopt existing technology and make a better product that beats existing competitive products in head-to-head comparisons even though they’re reusing existing technology. No new invention is required but they still must make significant investment in innovation to ensure that their product or system offering is better and pulls market share away from their competition.
    2) They can adapt existing technology and improve on it in ways that differentiate their product or system from competitive offering. This approach achieves some of the benefits of reuse but also takes on some of the burden of inventing the extensions to the adopted technology. Apple AirPods are a good example of this, they added the W1 chip to significantly improve pairing but still use Bluetooth for media streaming.
    3) They can create/invent something totally new from scratch. 

    There are certainly cost-benefit trade offs with each strategy but it’s safe to say that invention is usually the most time consuming and expensive strategy. It may also have the best upside potential if the products and systems resulting from the invention capture the market. 

    In my opinion, engineers are predisposed to targeting invention as their first choice, I.e. the NIH option. The home automation market had the opportunity to adopt and adapt decades of investment in directly relevant technology in factory automation, building automation, water/wastewater plant automation, security systems, and retail automation to the home automation market. But they chose to invent something new, not only as a market segment, but with individual companies and isolated consortiums going down their own paths fueled by NIH motivations. Now they’re trying to unwind some of these choices and refocus on adoption and adaptation using Ethernet standards as a backbone.  

    I’m not slapping anyone on the wrist. The industrial automation folks did the same thing and have been converging around Ethernet for the past decade or so under various “Industrial Ethernet” standards. But again, part of the adopt-adapt-invent strategic mix should include at least looking across other industries to see how they went about converging on unifying approaches. In other words, learning by other people’s mistakes is part of the adoption approach and costs so little. 

    Finally, if you think that having big technology providers in the game makes it fail proof or lends credibility, think again. Having participants in the game who are fully committed to eating the dog food that comes out of the working group is good, but only if they don’t have a Plan B fallback to continue using their proprietary stuff. Anyone can participate in meetings and engage a couple of representatives to work on specs or prototypes, but if they continue shipping their own stuff while taking credit for being part of the new standard in name only, they aren’t really onboard so what’s the point?
    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,110member
    pascal007 said:
    HomeKit has been a failure for quite some time. Happy to see that Apple is finally taking note of this fact. (Note : I'm not saying that HomeKit doesn't work well, but it needs a market presence. And right now, HomeKit-designed devices are scarce. Many were promised, few were actually delivered. And most by big companies, few by innovative ones.)
    You have zero facts to support your conclusion that HomeKit is a "failure." The plethora of non-HomeKit devices on Amazon.com doesn't make those other devices any more successful. 

    Apple does not have the largest market share in tablets, phones, or computers either. 
    StrangeDayschialolliverwatto_cobrachasmwilliamlondonjony0
  • Reply 10 of 23
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,110member

    Converely, I would say:   BAD move Apple!
    I too have a limited understanding of what all is involved.  
     You opine "bad move Apple," yet have a "limit understanding."  

    Nothing like an informed opinion. 
    StrangeDaysFileMakerFellerlolliverRayz2016watto_cobrachasmjony0
  • Reply 11 of 23
    gtj333 said:
    Sadly, Apple is so far behind in this category. I'm not sure why Google, Amazon or others would want to work on Project Connected Home. The unstable iOS 13 update for HomeKit this fall has made me re-think HomeKit. 

    As a long-time HomeKit user (who has also deployed Nest, Echo, Harmony, and even X10 setups, too), I'm not sure where you get the idea Apple is "so far behind" in this. The reality is Apple set a very high security bar for accessory makers—and, in doing so, they were embraced by the more reliable and responsible IoT manufacturers for their devices, but not the cheap devices from fly-by-night Chinese manufacturers. Sure, for a few hundred dollars, you can drop some Echo Dots in your house and set up some basic switches and the like... and then watch as support drops, exploits are discovered and never patched, and as your data is used to construct a profile of you for advertising purposes.

    I'm also sure Amazon and Google are seeing metrics on their end, and through their customer support, showing that people don't get how to use and set up the devices. Personally, I wouldn't understand it if they didn't want to work in the project—the possibilities are far greater for everyone involved than what the current reality holds.

    HomeKit needs work, no doubt, but none of the home automation solutions work seamlessly OOTB. Further, I'm curious as to why you say iOS 13's HomeKit update is "unstable"—I haven't seen that at all (my system utilizes devices from Lutron, iDevices, Eve, iHome, August, D-Link, Chamberlain, and Apple). What's been unstable?
    edited December 2019 StrangeDayslolliverwatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 23
    One thing I am really happy to see is this consortium work includes a communication protocol. Bluetooth and WiFi are not good protocols for a smart home. When I first started with HomeKit, I had all kinds of problems similar to what you read about in the reviews of many of the products. I went and added an Apple TV on each floor and redid my house with 4 Ubiquity access points and the problems went away. Things like electrical switches that sit in metal boxes do not play well with WiFi. I was always hoping Apple would buy Insteon. While their software sucks their communication protocol, at least on paper, sounded good. Having each device act as a repeater and a dual bank link sounds much more reliable than WiFi or Bluetooth. I put the Insteon link below if anyone cares to read. 

    The Insteon link.

    https://www.insteon.com/technology


    Apple get blamed for HomeKit not working well when people see “no response” on their home app when in reality they may have weak WiFi or their Bluetooth device such as an Apple TV or HomePod are far away from the device. 
    edited December 2019 kitatitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    gtj333 said:
    Sadly, Apple is so far behind in this category. I'm not sure why Google, Amazon or others would want to work on Project Connected Home. The unstable iOS 13 update for HomeKit this fall has made me re-think HomeKit. 
    I’m not aware of the iOS 13 HK issue. 

    How is Apple “so far” behind? I have lights, outlets, switches, and environmental sensors in my house. Also available are locks, blinds, etc. What are we missing here?
    lolliverwatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 23
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,831member
    flydog said:
    pascal007 said:
    HomeKit has been a failure for quite some time. Happy to see that Apple is finally taking note of this fact. (Note : I'm not saying that HomeKit doesn't work well, but it needs a market presence. And right now, HomeKit-designed devices are scarce. Many were promised, few were actually delivered. And most by big companies, few by innovative ones.)
    You have zero facts to support your conclusion that HomeKit is a "failure." The plethora of non-HomeKit devices on Amazon.com doesn't make those other devices any more successful. 

    Apple does not have the largest market share in tablets, phones, or computers either. 
    What's your evidence that it's not a failure?

    Apple was late to the game with HomeKit - several years after other technologies. I has security advantages, but many people don't understand those or had already bought in to another platform. My house came with a Schlage/Nexia Z-wave system installed. I have several door/window sensors, several switches and a thermostat on the system. HomeKit offers no interoperability with Z Wave, so why should I spend $500-600 (or more) to convert everything over? The enrollment is (usually) easier with HomeKit, but that's a one time event. The Nexia has more programming options than HomeKit and there's an order of magnitude more devices available. 

    As an experiment, I set up some HomeKit devices at my cabin. Documentation was sparse - I had to dig to find out that my older AppleTV would only work locally, not remotely to access devices. Enrollment goes great until it doesn't. Connectivity has been spotty, and there are fewer options for automation than with my Nexia system. I recently went looking for another door/window sensor and found 2. One had mediocre ratings the other wasn't available within the next 3 weeks. My local Apple Store had none. It's really hard to call this a roaring success.
    kitatitwilliamlondon
  • Reply 15 of 23
    kitatit said:
    Good move Apple. Get it done already though. 

    I get it, don’t compromise on the security, but for the love of God, get on with it. I've got a very limited understanding of what’s involved in making HomeKit products but it’s almost feeling like FireWire.... wilting on the vine. 

    I’ve been waiting to see products and HomeKit mature for the Australian market before I jump in. I always figured they will get it sorted eventually but the thought of HomeKit becoming a FireWire like thing of the past before it gets an enough critical mass has entered my head.

    If what they’ve done with the this open source thing gets small players involved, that’s great. The way it is at the moment, only the big players can afford to develop anything and that’s not good news for small markets like ours.
    Converely, I would say:   BAD move Apple!

    I too have a limited understanding of what all is involved.   But, rather than open up that box wider I would have rather seen Apple bring it in to hold it closer to their chest in either of two ways:

    1)  And the most preferable:   For Apple to jump into the market with both feet and create and market ALL of the hardware and software from Homekit on the iPhone or Apple Watch through the home router / WiFi all the way to the camera, light bulb, door opener or door lock, etc....   I.e., a one-stop shop for all your home automation needs.

    Apple will likely never produce a line of home automation products. It's not their bag, they make a limited number of products and do them well, they don't make a million accessories just because they could. It's why they don't make printers or scanners anymore. It's just not their core business. But the tools are there if accessory makers want to utilize the ecosystem. I certainly hope they do and vote with my wallet -- I buy HK gear. So far, I'm not left wanting.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    MplsP said:
    flydog said:
    pascal007 said:
    HomeKit has been a failure for quite some time. Happy to see that Apple is finally taking note of this fact. (Note : I'm not saying that HomeKit doesn't work well, but it needs a market presence. And right now, HomeKit-designed devices are scarce. Many were promised, few were actually delivered. And most by big companies, few by innovative ones.)
    You have zero facts to support your conclusion that HomeKit is a "failure." The plethora of non-HomeKit devices on Amazon.com doesn't make those other devices any more successful. 

    Apple does not have the largest market share in tablets, phones, or computers either. 
    What's your evidence that it's not a failure?
    Oh dear lord. No, that isn't how logic works. One cannot prove a negative. "Prove there isn't a god" or "Prove there isn't an invisible green man living on the surface of Jupiter. You can't SO IT'S REAL!" uhhh no. We don't need to prove it isn't true, the person making a claim has to back up the assertion and prove it true. Thus, they/you must prove HK is a failure.

    As far as you anecdotes about HK not working for you, I will simply counter them with my own: my dozen+ HK endpoints are working perfectly fine. Easy to set up, easy to use. Automated schedules and Siri-issued commands.
    edited December 2019 lolliverwatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,931member
    MplsP said:
    flydog said:
    pascal007 said:
    HomeKit has been a failure for quite some time. Happy to see that Apple is finally taking note of this fact. (Note : I'm not saying that HomeKit doesn't work well, but it needs a market presence. And right now, HomeKit-designed devices are scarce. Many were promised, few were actually delivered. And most by big companies, few by innovative ones.)
    You have zero facts to support your conclusion that HomeKit is a "failure." The plethora of non-HomeKit devices on Amazon.com doesn't make those other devices any more successful. 

    Apple does not have the largest market share in tablets, phones, or computers either. 
    What's your evidence that it's not a failure?

    Apple was late to the game with HomeKit - several years after other technologies. I has security advantages, but many people don't understand those or had already bought in to another platform. My house came with a Schlage/Nexia Z-wave system installed. I have several door/window sensors, several switches and a thermostat on the system. HomeKit offers no interoperability with Z Wave, so why should I spend $500-600 (or more) to convert everything over? The enrollment is (usually) easier with HomeKit, but that's a one time event. The Nexia has more programming options than HomeKit and there's an order of magnitude more devices available. 

    As an experiment, I set up some HomeKit devices at my cabin. Documentation was sparse - I had to dig to find out that my older AppleTV would only work locally, not remotely to access devices. Enrollment goes great until it doesn't. Connectivity has been spotty, and there are fewer options for automation than with my Nexia system. I recently went looking for another door/window sensor and found 2. One had mediocre ratings the other wasn't available within the next 3 weeks. My local Apple Store had none. It's really hard to call this a roaring success.
    The Verge has a pretty good article that broadly explains the current status/issues and what the working group hopes to accomplish. https://www.theverge.com/2019/12/19/21028256/smart-home-standard-google-apple-amazon-alexa-siri-zigbee-choip
    FileMakerFellerjdb8167
  • Reply 18 of 23
    I love my HomeKit enabled home with multiple devices which work pretty well.  I do think this will be a good thing for future devices that aren't yet available now and agree that looking into another wireless connectivity protocol would be good (aside from Bluetooth and Wi-Fi).  A lot of mine connect via Wi-Fi and I'm sure I will rue the day it has to be changed over to a new router.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    flydog said:

    Converely, I would say:   BAD move Apple!
    I too have a limited understanding of what all is involved.  
     You opine "bad move Apple," yet have a "limit understanding."  

    Nothing like an informed opinion. 

    My understanding of the undelying technology is limited.   My knowledge of the poor results is not.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    kitatit said:
    Good move Apple. Get it done already though. 

    I get it, don’t compromise on the security, but for the love of God, get on with it. I've got a very limited understanding of what’s involved in making HomeKit products but it’s almost feeling like FireWire.... wilting on the vine. 

    I’ve been waiting to see products and HomeKit mature for the Australian market before I jump in. I always figured they will get it sorted eventually but the thought of HomeKit becoming a FireWire like thing of the past before it gets an enough critical mass has entered my head.

    If what they’ve done with the this open source thing gets small players involved, that’s great. The way it is at the moment, only the big players can afford to develop anything and that’s not good news for small markets like ours.
    Converely, I would say:   BAD move Apple!

    I too have a limited understanding of what all is involved.   But, rather than open up that box wider I would have rather seen Apple bring it in to hold it closer to their chest in either of two ways:

    1)  And the most preferable:   For Apple to jump into the market with both feet and create and market ALL of the hardware and software from Homekit on the iPhone or Apple Watch through the home router / WiFi all the way to the camera, light bulb, door opener or door lock, etc....   I.e., a one-stop shop for all your home automation needs.

    Apple will likely never produce a line of home automation products. It's not their bag, they make a limited number of products and do them well, they don't make a million accessories just because they could. It's why they don't make printers or scanners anymore. It's just not their core business. But the tools are there if accessory makers want to utilize the ecosystem. I certainly hope they do and vote with my wallet -- I buy HK gear. So far, I'm not left wanting.

    I can' disagree with that (although Apple did branch out of their core businesses into music, exercise, health and finance).   But I get your point.

    But, you cut my post off after option #1.   Option #2 was:
    2)  Or, barring #1 above:   Heavy and extensive support of third parties developing home automation products and think of them as partners rather than developers....

    That would likely have helped get it started more effectively.

    watto_cobrawilliamlondon
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