WWDC 2018: HomeKit Deep Dive Session Recap

On the last day of WWDC 2018 held in San Jose this week, Apple hosted their first and only HomeKit related session for developers. The session, presented by HomeKit Engineer Keith Rauenbuehler, was around 40 minutes in length, provided developers with a recap of how HomeKit currently works and discussed implementation best practices. While there was not a lot in terms of news that came out of the session, there were a couple of things of interest.

First, Apple is providing developers a new tool, called the HomeKit Accessory Development Kit, which removes some of the burden that can come with accessory development. This kit covers many aspects of the development process, such as Cryptography, and Protocols, which when combined with Apple providing the Platform Logic, can reduce development down to just Accessory Logic. Apple believes, based on feedback from partners that were provided these tools, that this development kit can reduce development times dramatically. Previously, Apple mentioned that development and shipping a device would take around a year, and with this new tool, they say that they can see devices shipping in just 3 months.

On the hardware side of things, Apple has grouped water based devices into one broad category, now named Water Valves. Previously, these item types could be classified as irrigation, and faucets. Apple also announced one new category, Remotes, which we covered previously. The remote category is interesting to say the least, as it could mean that IR or RF based devices could be controlled via HomeKit, with a corresponding hub. The biggest and most popular smart remote device is currently the Logitech Harmony range of products, which would be a welcome addition to HomeKit, our fingers are crossed for future support.

Other subtle changes were shown off in the native iOS Home app. Visual changes that customers will see with the release of iOS 12 this fall include a new icon for the main Home settings page, which is now a home, instead of a arrow. Also, while this may have been just a mockup made for the presentation, an updated accessory controls page (accessed by 3D touch, or by long pressing a device icon) was shown off, and it resembled almost a card style, where the status bar for the device running the app was still visible.

So overall, not a ton of news on the HomeKit front during WWDC, but things such as the new HomeKit Accessory Development Kit coupled with software based authentication which arrived with iOS 11.3, shows that the company is listening to concerns around slow device adoption. Remote control support can also help to broaden the ecosystem, we just hope that it comes sooner rather than later.