Apple’s New Smart Home Platform Lacks Security Notification

There are good and bad reasons behind this. It’s possible, for instance, that Apple doesn’t want to expose their users to spam because of HomeKit. If so, that’s a fair point — imagine how annoying it would be if your phone buzzed every time your kids ran in and out the door, for instance. Still, it would be nice to at least have the option of setting our own notification preferences, as we can do on the iPhone itself.

Meanwhile, issue lies in part with HomeKit’s approach to security. Apple requires that all HomeKit gear send a special kind of notification that’s processed differently than the standard iPhone alerts for apps, emails, and texts. These new alerts originate with the HomeKit device before getting routed through the home’s Apple TV or iPad, one of which is required to use HomeKit.

Next they’re sent through the web via Apple’s iCloud service, and finally they come back to the user’s iPhone. Along the way, the notification is encrypted (so no one on the web can intercept it) and decrypted (so the user can read it). It’s a smart system that’s more secure than anything else on the market, because no one, not even Apple, has the luxury of decrypting your notifications.

The downside, however, is that Apple gets to choose which gadgets can send alerts on the gadget and which can’t. And right now, it’s not allowing every HomeKit-compatible smart home product to send alerts. The feature is currently restricted to accessories that allow access, like locks or systems with security issues.

This is great if you buy the HomeKit-compatible August Smart Lock, for instance, but not if you want to keep your regular deadbolt and slap a door sensor on your home’s entryway. Elgato’s sensor door and window falls within the contact sensors, and as a result aren’t allowed to send out notificaitons.

The situation has led to some poor ratings for Elgato’s Eve products, which are getting three or fewer stars out of five on Amazon. The major complaint — a lack of alerts — is not something Elgato can fix.

Adam Steinberg, Elgato’s vice president of marketing, says the decision to allow HomeKt alerts is entirely a decision Apple will take. He said that it is only few who make use of HomeKit that does not allow notifications. The issue could prevent other, similar HomeKit products from reaching mainstream success. Apple declined to comment on the notification restrictions.

There is a workaround, though it’s comical. HomeKit lets users program some home automation commands, meaning when my sensor-equipped window opens, I can set my Phillips Hue lightbulbs to turn red, as if there are intruders aboard the Starship Enterprise. But that doesn’t accomplish much if I’m out of the home, not to mention it might unsettle guests.

To be fair, I can see if my window is open or closed by opening Apple’s Home app and checking manually. But in a world where Apple and its competitors are trying to outdo the other, proactive notifications and suggestions for everything from apps to music, would be a major flaw.

As of this writing, Apple’s new iPhone software is still in phase of trial, that is, beta stage. Nothing about this is set in stone; the company could change its mind about notifications at any point. And despite this misstep, Apple still is regarding to be leading when it comes to smart home platform yet. But like many smart home owners, I’m tech savvy enough to manage my own notifications. All I’m asking for is a little more control — and a little more security.