HomeKit was first announced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2014 and things were slow moving. Frankly, I thought they would pull the plug on the concept altogether. I was wrong. WWDC 2016 gave new hope to Apple’s automation platform, including changes that allowed users to include home security cameras in their HomeKit scenes. Since then, Apple has continued to evolve the program by making the certification process easier, inviting more brands to create HomeKit-enabled devices, and by launching new hardware like a Siri-enabled smart speaker. Now that Apple is slowly moving in the right direction, it's time to take a closer look at using home security cameras with HomeKit.
Selecting a HomeKit-enabled Camera
Although the announcement that HomeKit will work with security cameras came over a year ago, the list of compatible cameras is still brief. This is probably due to Apple's certification process. To ensure that all HomeKit devices comply with Apple's standards, Apple requires an MFi certification (Made For iPhone). Originally, the process required a chip be embedded into every HomeKit-enabled device. According to some manufacturers, the process was tedious, costly, and prohibitive. Recently, however, Apple has changed the rules allowing devices to go through a software certification instead of requiring a hardware certification. Though the process is easier, Apple's certification is still strict, and not many brands are willing to jump through the required hoops.
HomeKit Cameras Already On The Market
D-Link Omna 180 Cam
Though not known as a trailblazer in the technology world, D-Link was the first to offer a HomeKit-enabled camera. The Omna 180 Cam is a cylinder-shaped camera with a 1080p resolution and 180° viewing angle. It offers features such as motion detection, detection zones, and night vision, but it lacks sound detection. You can read our full review of the camera here.
Logitech Circle 2
The second camera to offer HomeKit compatibility is Logitech's Circle 2. Circle 2 is an indoor/outdoor camera with a modular design. You can connect it to a wired mount, a direct-to-plug mount, a window mount, and an outdoor battery-powered mount. However, only the wired mount, plug mount, and window mount configurations are HomeKit compatible. If you want to learn more about Circle 2, we have a full review of the camera here.
HomeKit Cameras Coming Soon
Netatmo Welcome & Netatmo Presence
Netatmo has worked closely with Apple since the beginning of HomeKit. They have several non-camera products that work with HomeKit, and recently, they announced that two of their existing cameras will support HomeKit as well.
First is Netatmo Welcome, a camera that can recognize faces. It's an indoor camera with a 1080p resolution and a 130° viewing angle.
Their second camera that will work with HomeKit is called Presence. Presence is an outdoor camera equipped with a smart flood light that you can turn on or off using the Netatmo app.
Both cameras are currently selling, but HomeKit support is "coming soon" via a firmware update to all users.
Kidde RemoteLync Camera + RemoteLync Bridge
Kidde RemoteLync is another option currently selling but not yet HomeKit-enabled. Once HomeKit is ready, you'll also need to purchase the RemoteLync Bridge. With a Bridge, you'll be able to integrate RemoteLync's full features to your HomeKit system. The launch date for the RemoteLync Bridge is TBD.
Honeywell Smart Home Security Camera Base
Now pre-selling on IndieGoGo, Honeywell's DIY security system will soon work with HomeKit. The system is built around a base station that is equipped with a camera. The camera itself has features like motion detection, area masking, facial recognition, and intelligent sound detection. The system is expected to hit the market in early 2018, but HomeKit support will be activated at a later date.
Manufacturers That Previously Announced HomeKit Compatible Cameras
When Apple announced that HomeKit would support cameras, several companies quickly announced that they too would join hands with Apple. The list of eager hardware markers included August, Ring, Canary, SkyBell, Honeywell, Kuna, and more. Unfortunately, none have delivered.
Ring claims that their Ring Pro units are embedded with an MFi chip, but they have yet to go through the HomeKit certification process.
August recently launched a new video doorbell, but HomeKit is an integration noticeably missing from the launch.
a href="http://asecurecam.com/canary-camera-review/" target="_blank">Canary dubbed their HomeKit-enabled camera "Canary Plus," but they have yet to debut a product.
At CES 2017, Honeywell released two HomeKit-ready cameras. But, neither option supports HomeKit.
Getting Started With HomeKit
HomeKit is a hub-less system. To get started, all you need is an iPhone and a HomeKit-enabled device. However, with such a setup, HomeKit's features are limited. You can only control your devices when you're home and connected to your home Wi-Fi. If you want to access all HomeKit features, including remote control of your cameras, remote video streaming, and scene creation, you need a home hub. A home hub can be any of the following:
- Apple TV 3rd Gen w/ latest tvOS*
- Apple TV 4th Gen w/ latest tvOS
- Apple TV 4 w/ latest tvOSK
- iPad running iOS 10.3 or later*
- HomePod Smart Speaker (coming soon)
*Take note that if you use your iPad as a home hub, the device must remain at home and plugged in. Also, using an Apple TV 3rd Gen as a home hub won't unlock HomeKit's full potential. You will be able to control your devices while away from home, but you won't be able to create automated scenes or watch your cameras live stream while away from home.
Controlling Your Cameras
Without a home hub, you can still control your cameras when you're at home. With a home hub, you can control your cameras and stream videos from anywhere in the world so long as your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G/LTE.
You can control your HomeKit cameras using Apple's Home App which is built into all iPhones, iPads, and iPods running iOS 10 or later as well as Apple Watches running WatchOS 3 or later. The app offers built-in controls for all HomeKit-compatible devices. You can use it to turn on lamps, control locks, arm and disarm sensors, etc. As for cameras, the app can arm and disarm built-in sensors and stream videos to your iPhone or other Apple devices (e.g., Apple TV).
From a security perspective, the Home App offers one exceptional feature: quick preview. If your camera detects motion while armed, it will send you a notification via the Home app (home hub required). Instead of simply sending you an alert, however, it will show you a short clip of the event from your lock screen. You won't need to launch your Home or camera app to see what's happening.
Besides using the app, you can also use Siri to control your cameras with your voice. You can say things like "turn on the camera" to arm its sensors or "show me my kitchen camera" to command Siri to stream live videos to your phone or compatible Apple TV. You can use not only the Siri living inside your iPhone or iPad to control your devices but also the Siri living inside your Apple TV's remote. Soon, you will also be able to use your HomePod smart speaker.
Automating Your Cameras
HomeKit provides automation by allowing you to create relationships between multiple smart devices even if they aren't the same brand or type. It allows you to control your devices individually, group them into scenes, or trigger scenes based on your location, the time, or the condition of other devices.
A scene can control multiple devices with one command regardless of whether you are home or away. For example, you can create a scene that closes all your blinds, turns off your lights, and arms your connected security camera. If you want, you can set your scenes to trigger based upon conditions. For example, you can configure your camera to arm if you leave the house (Location Services) or if your jewelry drawer is opened (Eve Door/Window Sensor).
Cameras can play a role in HomeKit scenes, but they can also act as a trigger. You can create a scene that turns your living room lights on if Circle 2 detects motion, then take it a step further by applying a conditional rule that states this should only happen if it's past 6 pm.
Should You Invest In HomeKit Security Cameras?
The answer to this question depends on how invested you are in HomeKit and Apple products. If you're invested or plan to make HomeKit your primary smart home platform, then adding security cameras that work with the system makes sense. However, take note that other systems can provide features similar to HomeKit and offer greater compatibility. For example, Amazon Alexa devices also work with security cameras and Amazon Echo Show and Spot can stream camera footage on-demand. IFTTT lets you create automated rules for cameras and hundreds of other compatible devices. You can create rules like,"if my front door camera detects motion, turn on my porch lights." If you're not yet invested in HomeKit or if you aren't married to your iPhone, I suggest you take a look at other options.