According to a report by 9to5Mac, Apple will allow its upcoming HomeKit platform to work with certain existing, non-HomeKit home automation products, though there are a few limitations. Citing unnamed sources, the source claims that the latest Made for iPhone (MFi) licensing program specifications detail the types of home automation products other than HomeKit that Apple will permit to interact with its platform.
Apparently Apple will be connecting rival home automation products to HomeKit using a hardware “bridge”, as opposed to newly-released Wi-Fi and Bluetooth accessories that have been certified by Apple and built with the HomeKit protocol to directly connect to iOS devices. The source notes that the bridge accessory will communicate with iOS devices using the HomeKit protocol, while communicating with non-HomeKit accessories using other wireless protocols such as ZigBee, Z-Wave or other proprietary technologies. There are however restrictions on which accessories can be bridged to HomeKit.
“For starters, Apple will not allow home automation accessories connecting over Wi-Fi, such as a Nest Thermostat, to be bridged. Those will have to go the HomeKit protocol route and become licensed MFi products. Apple will allow some Bluetooth LE accessories to be bridged, but only those that don’t offer users control of the home. For example, a non-MFi Bluetooth lightbulb product must not be bridged. Instead, like Wi-Fi products, it would have to go through the HomeKit protocol and get MFi certification.
That doesn’t leave a lot of products that will work with a HomeKit bridge, but Apple will permit bridging of Bluetooth products that don’t provide control of the home and only provide data to HomeKit, such as a reading from a sensor”.
It is also believed that the bridge accessory will allow compatible non-HomeKit accessories to be controlled using HomeKit (Siri) commands on iOS devices.