HomeKit Weekly: HomeKit device firmware updates should move to the Home app

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HomeKit excels as a platform because it allows you to tie together multiple products from different manufacturers across your home. This reality will enable you to use a motion sensor on one side of your house to trigger a light from a different manufacturer somewhere else in your home. My biggest complaint about HomeKit is that I have a string of third-party manufacturer’s apps on iPhone that are solely used for firmware updates. What should Apple do to fix this?

HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.


Add firmware updates to the home app

In a future revision to iOS and HomeKit, it would be ideal for Apple to add the infrastructure to deliver firmware updates directly through the Home app. This system would require some sort of web-based infrastructure for a manufacturer to upload the new firmware to be delivered to the end-user. Once it’s uploaded, Apple would likely want to inspect the code to make sure nothing malicious is in it, but then it would appear in the Home app as an available update.

What benefits would it bring?

Adding firmware updates to the Home app would benefit end-users and device makers alike. For device makers, they’d be able to get more people to update to the most recent firmware. Getting more of the end-users on the latest firmware would help with support calls and customer service issues, as it wouldn’t require downloading a third-party application. As part of this, Apple could add a built-in troubleshooting functionality in the Home app. It would run a scan to see if devices were offline, out of date on firmware, etc.

For end-users, it would allow them to lock down their network using HomeKit router functionality in systems like Eero. Apple could add an option to HomeKit router to only allow devices to download firmware updates directly from Apple. I would liken to something like how Gatekeeper works on macOS where the default on the Mac is only to run applications that have passed gatekeeper certifications.

For the HomeKit platform as a whole, it would further cement itself as the most secure way to build a smart home. As you add an August smart lock or a VOCOlinc smart plug to the Home app, you’d get the latest firmware update inline during the setup process. Currently, Apple lets you know a firmware update is needed, but it instructs you to download the device’s dedicated app that often requires a completely new setup process to get to the firmware update. I’d even love an option to have devices automatically download and install firmware updates in the background.

Wrap-up on HomeKit firmware updates

What do you think about this idea of having HomeKit download firmware updates through the Home app and automatically installing them? Are there any downsides I am not thinking of by suggesting this setup? Would you opt into Home app delivered firmware updates if it meant you could lock your network security down even more? I’d love to hear your comments below.

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