Elgato’s new Eve lineup is the first set of home monitoring accessories designed to work with Apple’s new HomeKit ecosystem introduced with iOS 8, including Eve Room ($80), an indoor sensor for air quality, temperature, and humidity; Eve Weather ($50), an outdoor sensor for monitoring temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure; and Eve Door & Window ($40), a wireless contact sensor that can be used to determine whether your door or window is open or closed. In addition, Elgato provides its own free Eve companion app that not only provides configuration for its own devices, but offers a nice way to monitor and control all of your own HomeKit devices.
The Eve Room and Eve Weather indoor and outdoor sensors are both very similar in design — small square white devices about the size of a hockey puck — with the only conspicuous difference being that the indoor Eve Room unit takes 3 AA batteries, while the outdoor Eve Weather module only takes two, and includes an extra vent on the bottom casing. The batteries are included in the packaging, and Elgato promises about three months of life from a standard set of AA batteries. Despite the similarities, however, only Eve Weather is specifically IPX3 rated — effectively rain and splash proof — obviously important for an outdoor sensor. The Eve Door & Window module instead takes one (uncommon) ½ AA battery, which is also included in the package, along with the companion contact sensor and a set of five spacers to help with getting the installation positioning just right.
Rather than Wi-Fi, the Eve units all use Bluetooth 4.0 Smart technology for communicating with HomeKit, meaning you’ll need to be within normal Bluetooth range with your iOS device to read information from them, or have an Apple TV that is within range to act as a Bluetooth hub base station. Note, however, that an Apple TV is required for remote access to HomeKit regardless of whether you’re using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-based accessories. In our configuration, we had no problems with the Eve devices communicating with the Apple TV at distances of up to 30 feet, even in the case of the Eve Weather which was outside on a back porch, separated from the Apple TV base station by a distance of about 20 feet through an outdoor wall. iOS 9 has introduced support for Bluetooth Range Extenders in HomeKit, which will offer the ability to use Bluetooth Smart devices at greater ranges — however, as of this writing, no such accessories are yet available.
Elgato’s implementation of HomeKit in its free companion Eve app is quite well done, and setting up the devices was incredibly simple, and in fact made even easier by the fact that they didn’t have to join a Wi-Fi network. As is the standard with HomeKit devices, configuration involved opening up the Eve app, searching for new devices, and then using the iPhone camera to capture the eight-digit code found on each. Elgato helpfully includes the pairing code both on the Eve hardware devices as well as on the back of the small quick start manuals that come with each, and the code sticker on the device can also be easily removed if you don’t want to leave it there. Once the code was entered the devices just appeared, and in fact the role of the Apple TV in the process is entirely transparent — you assume the Apple TV is being used because Elgato and Apple tell you that it’s necessary, but there’s no separate process for pairing the devices with the Apple TV as a HomeKit hub.
The particularly great thing about Elgato’s Eve app is that it’s designed to work entirely with HomeKit, and not just Elgato’s own Eve devices — anything else you’ve added to your HomeKit system will also appear here, and can be monitored and controlled in the same app. In our case, iHome’s iSP5 SmartPlug automatically showed up and was controllable through the Eve app. This is in contrast to other HomeKit apps we’ve seen that seem to limit themselves to only certain classes of devices.
The other advantage of the Eve app’s reliance exclusively on HomeKit is that it doesn’t confuse the user with trying to setup an account or any additional user profiles — all of the data is stored in HomeKit already, so the app just needs to prompt the user for permission to access that data in much the same way as a request for photos or location data access already works. In our case, another family member who we had already shared HomeKit access with previously was able to load up the app — while out at work no less — and was ready to monitor and control all of our HomeKit accessories without having to worry about setting up or logging into a third-party user account. The “just works” promise of HomeKit is clearly evident here.
The Eve app also provides access to most other HomeKit features, including the setup of Rooms, Scenes, Zones, Service Groups, and Users, and of course everything configured here is stored in HomeKit and will be made available to other apps that use the HomeKit framework, and of course, Siri.
So if you’re assigned your Eve Room to the “Family Room” you can ask Siri “What’s the temperature in the family room?” and you’ll get a response. Or, “What’s the temperature at home” will provide a response showing the temperatures read from both Eve Room and Eve Weather (although Siri unfortunately doesn’t tell you which is which, at certain times of the year you’ll probably be able to figure it out for yourself).
Eve Room and Eve Weather worked quite well and did everything they were supposed to without any issues, reporting in the relevant information — temperature, humidity, air quality, and barometric pressure, as appropriate — both whenever the Eve app was fired up or on request from Siri. Limitations in Siri’s own framework limit the data that’s available by verbal request to only temperature and humidity data, however. We found ourselves able to monitor temperature and other conditions both at home and away from home without any issues, and the Eve app not only provides a nice way to view the current data, but can also show you graphs and charts of past conditions — the devices store sensor data for up to 14 days, and the data gets downloaded to the app whenever you connect, so as long as you’re connecting at least once a week or so you should end up with a continuous stream of temperature, humidity, air pressure, and air quality information.
About the only limitation right now is that none of Elgato’s Eve accessories support any kind of automated rules for scene selection or accessory control, due to HomeKit limitations that were only expanded with the recent release of iOS 9. Basically, they’re great for monitoring temperature conditions, but you can’t yet use them for automation, such as turning on a light or adjusting thermostat based on temperature. Elgato has promised to release free firmware and app updates to add these capabilities now that iOS 9 has been released, but so far there’s no timeframe available yet on when these updates will be coming.
Eve Window & Door, on the other hand, is the odd one out of the bunch. The sensor only records basic status as to whether a door is opened or closed, and due to limitations in Apple’s HomeKit implementation, there’s no way for it to even provide push notifications when status changes. In other words, you can look in the Eve app to see if your door is open or closed, but that’s about it.