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Pausing To Appreciate HomeKit's Focus on Security

Mike Wolf HomeKit

I've been as critical of HomeKit as anyone, but let me pause to say I think Apple's long-term focus on being extremely strict with its security requirements could be a long term win for the company.

This piece on HomeKit's high-requirements for Bluetooth is interesting. The article quotes an unnamed exec building a smart home product and says Apple is basically taking a stand to make what it sees as less-than-secure Bluetooth devices more secure for the purposes of HomeKit.

"At one point, they decided that computers were no longer going to have CDs – Apple recognized everything is going to be distributed on the Internet. They force an issue. It’s like that here. Regular Bluetooth has an issue — it’s not secure.”

In the short term, there's no arguing Homekit has been a mess. In fact, as I've said before I think Apple has probably hurt more than helped things in 2015. But don't let that conclusion be mistaken for saying that HomeKit is a failure.  I think long term, this focus on security could be HomeKit's most redeeming feature. Sure, Apple has made life very difficult for smart home hardware makers, but as security becomes a bigger issues in IoT and smart home -and this week's story of hackers taking over a car is exactly the type of story that petrifies consumers and executives alike - I think locking things down and making them ultra secure will be important. 

In other words, security can't be an afterthought in the smart home. Apple is making sure - probably at the expense of itself and others in the space early on - that it isn't. That could pay dividends in 2016 and beyond. 

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  • Michael Wolf on

    You make a good point about having HomeKit compliant devices being controlled by other devices. I am guessing official “HomeKit” controlled devices will be secure when operating under HomeKit control, but because many will also operate independently of HomeKit they will have security holes. That’s the problem, in a sense, is that any network is only as secure as its weakest link…

  • TechPaul64 on

    Agreed. If HomeKit integration continues to be a priority for manufacturers, then the performance issues will eventually be resolved and the consumer will benefit from the enhanced security spec. What worries me about Homekit, is whether or not Apple’s vision for the smart home is ambitious enough with regards to interoperability of homekit devices (such as shared sensor data between energy and security systems or triggers that work when you aren’t home with your iPhone). These services seem like they would require a local hub (maybe Apple TV). Apple’s iCloud-based, hub-less approach announced at WWDC15 still isn’t entirely clear to me and I know there is a lot more possible today with existing hubs and cloud integration such as IFTTT. Since Apple doesn’t entirely replace these more advanced integration systems, they are allowing those services to coexist on Homekit products; however, this makes me worry that the homekit security upgrades are useless when less secure cloud systems and hubs can control homekit devices.


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