Apple has recently come out with a new home automation and smart security system called HomeKit. It includes products like light dimmers, air monitors, security monitors, and smart thermostats. Its main selling point is that is has a voice control function. It uses Siri commands similar to those already on their smartphones to control the system. It sounds fun, but we are wary of Apple’s commitment to security and safety over ostentatiousness.
Apple-based home automation products already exist from third party companies (see our recent review of Savant Systems). HomeKit shows a similar problem: price. Because it’s not on the market yet, there aren’t specific price tags to look at, but it looks like it’s going to require multiple Apple devices, which, as we all know, are typically very costly. Their examples of how it works all include having access to mobile apple devices like phones or tablets. It is built on the iOS 8 operating system, after all, which exclusively runs on Apple products. You will need at least a third-generation Apple TV to receive and relay messages from outside the home.
So in a similar tone with the conclusion of our Savant Systems review, if you already have multiple Apple devices and are just looking for another way to expand your collection, then Apple’s HomeKit might be a fit for you. Otherwise, be prepared to pull a lot of change out of your pocket.
If you already have an Apple smartphone or tablet, you have probably messed around with Siri a bit. It’s far from perfect. It requires you to speak very sternly and slowly, often misinterpreting entirely the words you say or what they mean. In fact, most of the time, after trying unsuccessfully 3 to 5 times to tell Siri what you want, you end up doing the task manually anyways.
Many other users of existing voice controlled home automation systems have complained of the same thing. In this example, telling a box to “lower the volume” took multiple tries and at one point even raised the volume. Other examples involved repeated variations of prompts and concluded in getting up to not only perform the task manually but also turn off the system.
Voice activated machines can also be nuisances when they activate to anything that sounds similar to their prompt. “Hey Siri” might activate when you just say “Hey.” So when you’re on the phone, watching a movie, or listening to the radio, you might be interrupted by the AI. Maybe one day voice recognition and voice activated technologies will be smart enough to bring ease of access rather than unwanted frustration, but right now the thought of trying to automate my home with Siri is already giving me a headache.
Voice recognition on iPhones is already problematic towards security. Did you know that because the feature for accessing Siri while the phone is locked is “On” by default, anyone can pick up your phone and send emails or texts immediately, unless you opt out. This is a simple but huge overlook in terms of security on your phone. Do you want this level of security for your home?
There aren’t many details about how the system works yet, but concerns include gimmicky door-opening schematics that can be easily fooled, a lack of professional monitoring, and comprehensive coverage of the home. Biometric methods of unlocking uses technology that is currently easily fooled with pictures of faces and/or fingers. Home automation without professional monitoring is not security. And many flashy home automation systems overlook basic parts of home security like door and window sensors.
Bottom line, Apple’s forays into elegant and elaborate home security are interesting and worth following. However, trusting first generation security technology is dangerous idea; who knows what security flaws will show up, and when they do, you don’t want your entire home to be vulnerable as you wait around for Apple to patch it.
Protect America offers home automation and professional monitoring services for an affordable price. Our home automation systems use Z-Wave technology that all links up with the rest of your home security system. Our free smartphone app, SMART Connect, gives you access to all of it, so you can lock your doors, turn off your lights, make sure your system is armed, and watch a live feed from your security camera all from your phone, no matter where you are.