Open Source Homebridge Links 3rd-party Smart Home Devices
The release of Apple’s iPhone 7 arguably raised the bar for what we, the consumer, can hope to accomplish using a smartphone. Sure, its camera is better than ever thanks to the combined parallax feature and machine learning to separate foreground and background, simulating depth of field, and the touch sensitive home key helps keep the device waterproof.
Some might say that the most profound pain point for handheld users – the ability to pair the device with other wireless components – has been solved thanks to the new phone’s powerful W1 wireless chip that can instantaneously pair the phone with all your iCloud compatible devices. So why is this significant? What’s changed in our society to such a degree that would put effortless device pairing back on the list of must haves?
To answer that, we needn’t look any further than a product called Homebridge – but first; a little backstory is in order.
For years, Apple has been talking a pretty big game about entering the fray of the smart home sector. While the number of compatible devices grew, there was no proprietary Apple mobile app through which consumers could integrate their devices. As a result, many despondent, Apple-loyal homeowners were forced to look elsewhere for their smart home solutions, and as the sales figures bare, invest in them they did. With the release of the iPhone 7 and the iOS 10 operating system, Apple finally has a viable mobile app (called Home) that allows integration between all Home enabled devices. While exciting, this poses an obvious issue for homeowners that want to start buying Apple Homekit devices, but are faced with a lack of compatibility between Apple backed products and their competitors’.
Thankfully, the open-source Homebridge was designed specifically to put those fears to bed. Moreover, Homebridge addresses one of the biggest drawbacks of the Homekit ecosystem – a lack of voice controls. In truth, it’s difficult to deny the capabilities afforded by Siri, Apple’s ubiquitous virtual assistant. Sadly, this functionality has not (up to now) transcended to Homekit.
A nice little bonus for a product like Homebridge is that many “legacy” devices can be integrated to function together as part of a cohesive system. For instance, imagine being able to give Siri a command to turn up the temperature displayed on your Nest thermostat. Or better yet, imagine controlling both your Signal ceiling fans and automated window blinds through a singular app on your iPhone? The point is Homebridge allows consumers to have the best of both worlds, because they have the ability to integrate the products that work best for them.
How Does it Work?
Currently available on GitHub, Homebridge emulates the iOS Homekit API through a series of plug-ins. Each plug-in corresponds to a different manufacturer, allowing the user to control otherwise incompatible devices using a singular platform. Granted, this does take a bit of tech know-how as both the Homebridge database and related plug-ins can be installed by a command line prompt as global NPM modules, and are compatible with Linux based systems as well as the very versatile Raspberry Pi.
Though it might take more than a smidgen of technical expertise to integrate your devices with this open-source solution, it’s easy to see the potential of such a system once the steep learning curve has been addressed. In any free market, no consumer should be beholden to one particular brand over another. He or she should be able to choose the right product that is capable of meeting their needs. It seems that up to this point, this hasn’t necessarily held true in the smart home industry. Consumers, when faced with the decision to buy the item they prefer over one that will work better with their existing system will more often than not choose the former.
Having access to something like Homebridge can, in a very real sense, tear down some of these walls that limit a consumer’s buying decision. In a perfect world, compatibility wouldn’t be an issue; but the smart home market is still really in its formative years. Perhaps an open-source solution like Homebridge is the first step toward cohesive and unified products. Only then, when the consumer is truly unfettered by the restriction of compatibility will any home truly be smart, and completely customized to meet the needs of the residents.