Siri is starting to take over the smart home. The first products that can be controlled by iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches through HomeKit — Apple's smart home platform — are going on sale today, with others being announced for July. The products include light dimmers, air monitors, a thermostat, and an entire smart home hub. They can all be controlled through apps and Siri, allowing homes to be automated by voice command.
Two companies launch today, three more arrive in July
Two companies have products going on sale today: there's a pair of lighting kits from Lutron, and a hub for Insteon's own smart home system. Three other companies are announcing products that will begin shipping in July: Ecobee has a smart thermostat, iHome has a power outlet, and Elgato has a series of home sensors that can detect air quality, weather, energy use, and whether doors and windows are open or closed.
Today's launch comes exactly one year after Apple's announcement of HomeKit — software included in iOS 8 that allows it to control smart home products. HomeKit isn't an app; it's more like a backbone that allows smart home products to talk to each other.
HomeKit allows any company to build an app that connects to any other company's HomeKit products. It also allows Siri to tap into those devices. Finally, it allows homeowners to set up different home presets — such as one for when they're returning from work or heading to bed — and have lights, music, TVs, or other devices turn on or off in response. (Notably, an Apple TV is required to use voice control from outside the home.)
There's a lot of variety in the products being announced today: Lutron's lighting kits allow homeowners to turn lights on and off and to dim them; Ecobee's smart thermostat has Nest-like energy features and can be controlled from outside the home; iHome's power outlet basically just lets you turn devices on and off by killing power to them; and Elgato has a series of sensors that connect to a hub called Eve. There's also Insteon, which is offering a HomeKit-enabled bridge that connects to its existing system of smart home products, which communicate using a number of different wireless standards.
Some HomeKit-enabled products will be available in the Apple Store
A number of these products will actually be sold through the Apple Store or Apple's online store. Lutron's lighting kits, which sell for $229.95, are supposed to be available in stores today. Elgato's Eve and sensors, which sell separately from $39.95 up to $79.95, and Ecobee's thermostat, which sells for $249, are supposed to be in stores starting in July.
While these are relatively simple pieces to a home, they're enough to allow someone who's interested in home automation get started on the basics. It's possible that we'll learn more about Apple's smart home plans next Monday, during its developers conference, but it could turn out that today's announcements are the big news for now. HomeKit is the start of what could be another vibrant ecosystem of iPhone accessories for Apple — now that the program is up and running, it shouldn't take long for more devices to start rolling out.