Apple is open-sourcing some of its smart home tools to “accelerate the development” of the new smart home standard announced by industry leaders yesterday. Parts of Apple’s HomeKit Accessory Development Kit (ADK) will now be available for any developer to experiment with, regardless of whether they have a business relationship with Apple.
The move comes as Apple, Google, and Amazon have announced a new open-source smart home standard. Project Connected Home over IP will incorporate elements of each company’s existing technology, whether it’s Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Weave, or Apple’s HomeKit, allowing smart home devices to work together more effectively. Apple’s decision to open-source parts of HomeKit sounds like a sensible first step towards integrating the company’s technology into the new standard.
Crucially, the move doesn’t mean that HomeKit is going completely open-source, and nor does it mean that just anyone will be able to use the software to design and release their own Apple-compatible smart home accessory. Manufacturers will still need to enroll in Apple’s HomeKit MFi Program to get access to the commercial version of the Accessory Protocol Specification and to sell their devices. But open-sourcing elements of HomeKit will make it easier for manufacturers to prototype devices before spending the money to become an MFi partner.
This isn’t the first time Apple has attempted to make HomeKit easier to develop for. Back in 2017 it announced plans to allow anyone to build a HomeKit device and loosened security constraints (replacing the need for a dedicated security chip with a software fix). However, as Apple Insider points out, Apple only made the HomeKit Accessory Protocol widely available, which is just one part of the Accessory Development Kit. This latest announcement means that there is now an open source ADK that is available to all.
As well as helping the development of the new standard, open-sourcing portions of the ADK could help with HomeKit adoption, which has historically lagged behind Amazon and Google’s competing initiatives. The move means that companies can play around with the software, before committing to supporting it. If that sounds interesting, or if you’re just a hobbyist who wants to have a tinker, then you can access the HomeKit ADK over on its GitHub page.