Apple has loosened the reins on HomeKit accessory development, a new report from Forbes reveals. During a WWDC developer session on Wednesday, Apple announced that it is opening up HomeKit to allow any Apple developer to build and prototype smart home accessories without first needing to apply for and be granted an MFi license. Developers who wish to release a HomeKit product will still need to pursue MFi certification, but the new policy will make it easier for new companies to get started with the process of developing HomeKit-compatible products.
Even more significantly, however, Apple is going to begin allowing developers to integrate HomeKit security into their products at the software level, rather than requiring an Apple-designed authentication chip. This software-based authorization will be available to existing products as well, meaning that for the first time many legacy home automation products will be able to join the HomeKit club with merely a firmware update, rather than requiring users to replace hardware components to gain HomeKit compatibility. Apple emphasized that all of the same heavy-duty encryption would still be incorporated into the software design.
When Apple first debuted HomeKit back in 2014, it followed Apple’s typically closed approach for accessory development, requiring partners to be members of Apple’s MFi program, as well as mandating that all HomeKit accessories include an Apple hardware chip to provide both authentication and security features. It was likely this policy that resulted in a very slow pace of adoption of HomeKit technology among many accessory makers, with the first HomeKit products not appearing on the market until over a year later, and existing home automation solutions such as Lutron Caséta and Philips Hue requiring the users purchase new hardware components to add HomeKit compatibility. These new changes to Apple’s HomeKit approach should make it easier for developers to release new HomeKit products, while also enabling many more established home automation products to more easily add HomeKit support.