Integrating HomeKit devices with Node-RED

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April 2019

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node-red-contrib-homekit is a slick way to create virtual HomeKit devices in Node-RED, providing a bridge to non-HomeKit-aware hardware.

When it is time for my Node-RED flows to talk to real HomeKit devices, however, it seems to get messy.

To control a HomeKit device (thermostat, outlet, bulb, occupancy sensor, etc.) from a Node-RED flow, the most elegant solution I know of is to install Homebridge and something like homebridge-mqtt alongside Node-RED, which feels to me like a big, awkward hammer.

I feel like I'm missing something--is there a more direct approach? Or am I doing it in an advisable way?

3 answers

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I’m in the process of changing my setup from the node-red Homekit node to a separate Homebridge with the MQTT plugin myself. Not only because it is more elegant but also more flexible HomeKit-wise, provides a “separation of concerns” between processes running, and also let’s me just add one bridge to Home app.

There’s also a websocket plugin for Homebridge which also plays nice with node-red but as I have a mosquitto MQTT broker running anyway I might as well use the “language of IoT”.

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As far as I know, there is no way to talk from Node-RED to HomeKit enabled devices using the HomeKit protocol. Apple only publish the specs for client devices and services, but the HomeKit server, and therefore UI, can only be iOS device. You can think of HomeKit as the Apple alternative to Node-RED. And the control can only be one way - from Homekit to Node-RED. You can make the data flow both ways though. For instance you can create virtual HomeKit switch in Node-RED, that the Home app can control using automation (like turning on when you're home). Thus you can have binary communication between them.

The protocol actually specifies a set of predefined accessories with their options and capabilities, and each manufacturer should provide API for the selected accessory. One physical device can have multiple virtual accessories - like temp and humidity sensors, that are shown as two items in Home app, but might be one actual device.

You need to use your iPhone/iPad to add and control the bridge/accessories, that you can create in Node-RED or are licensed HomeKit devices. But they are not able to talk to each other using that protocol. You'd have to find alternative way for doing this by looking for another API by the manufacturer. For instance Hue is certified as HomeKit and you can add it to your Home app directly, but if you want to control it with Node-RED you'd need their other API as the HomeKit server is proprietary.

Also for Node-RED use the updated node-red-contrib-homekit-bridged that can simplify your management.

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I am in the process of connecting Homekit related devices and services with Node-RED using Homebridge. Both Homebridge and Node-RED can be installed on the same machine (a Pi). There are several plugins available to connect Homebridge with Node-RED and maybe you can create a flow that then controls your devices for which you also have to find a plugin in Node-RED. It may be a bit over engineered as there are tons of plugins available for Homebridge directly but using Node-RED is much more fun. The MQTT way is also a good start but I didn't want to mess with protocols and stuff.