HomeBridge is a JavaScript(NodeJS) based application, which allows you to integrate various smart home devices such as smart lights, thermostats, motion sensors etc. It is not natively supported by the Apple Home-kit. Various Smart Home products goes through rounds of testing and comply to security guidelines laid by Apple to be directly supported in Home-kit.

Those who want to create Smart Homes built on Apple Home-Kit and still like to add non-Apple ecosystem devices enjoy HomeBridge. HomeBridge is an open-source initiative, where everyone can participate for free. Its concept is simple: it compiles a list of all gadgets that do not have Apple HomeKit certification. So we can use the Home app to monitor any smart gadget in our building.

How does Homebridge work?

As the name suggests, HomeBridge acts a Bridge layer between Apple Home-kit and Not-supported Smart Home Devices.
HomeBridge Converts API’s from Apple-Home kit into Smart-Device understandable API’s and vice versa.

What do we mean by Not-supported Smart Devices? The APIs and the security which Apple-Home Kit expects from the smart-devices is not present or at least not fully-compatible. It asks questions in English and responds in Chinese. HomeBridge operates by emulating the iOS HomeKit API using Plugins. These are user-contributed components.

For Each Non-Compatible device there is at least one plugin. A single Plugin may also support many smart-Devices under a Single Brand.

Example Smart Home powerhouses like Nest and Sonos, as well as lesser-known brands like Indigo Demotics, Netatmo, and WeMo. Each Brand has their unique Plugin to be added into HomeBridge. Both HomeBridge database and Plugins can be configured as global NPM modules from a command line prompt. They are also compatible with both Linux and Raspberry Pi systems.

How to Control your smart devices using HomeBridge: 

Power your Homebridge gadgets and set up automation for your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac. Utilize the Apple Home App,  Eve for HomeKit, or any other 3rd party HomeKit software to control your computers.

You can also use Siri as it helps you to control your accessories with your voice. For example:

  • “Downstairs, switch off the lights.”
  • “Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.”
  • “Are the lights on in the basement?”
  • “In the living room, turn off the fan.”

You can build efficient automation and safely monitor your gadgets even though you’re not at home with the inclusion of a home hub (AppleTV, HomePod, or iPad).

Homebridge or official HomeKit?

Let’s be explicit about a few aspects. Choose the first one if you have two devices, one of which is officially signed as compatible and the other is accessible through Homebridge. It is not easy to gain Apple certification, but if an organization has done so, it indicates that it has been bored.

Homebridge is among all computers that have not opted to be approved by Apple. It’s common for a single vendor to only certify a subset of HomeKit units. Xiaomi is a great example. If we set an Aqara Hub or Mi Hub V3 as a target, all devices that use it after Zigbee will appear in HomeKit. Now, the Roborock S6, Mi 3 Air Purifier does not have a humidifier.

Even better, since certain devices connecting to a HomeKit-compatible gateway can be shielded from view in the Home app. 

Homebridge enables you to connect to smart home gadgets that don’t support HomeKit natively. There are over 2,000 Homebridge plugins that run tens of thousands of smart devices.

What Is Apple HomeKit?

Apple’s HomeKit mobile home platform is a capable home automation technology that aims to lower the technological barriers to smart house adoption. It focuses on Privacy and confidentiality. Homekit ensures this through strict encrypted local communication between the governing Apple computer and third-party smart devices.

It allow users to use your software to interact with and monitor connected home accessories. You can provide a way to customize accessories and build activities to manage them using the HomeKit platform. Users may also use Siri to group behaviours together and initiate them.

This means you won’t be able to use the software if your handset runs on Android, Windows, or another operating system, or if you have an outdated version of iOS. You can use the software to monitor your smart devices, such as lights, thermostats, and locks, through WiFi or Bluetooth, or via Siri’s voice commands.

Some of the most frequently used plugins for HomeBridge

A ringA long-awaited solution to Ring’s lack of HomeKit compatibility. This is a holistic approach that covers the whole spectrum of ring products and functions.
SensiboThe Sky smart AC controller from Sensibo doesn’t help HomeKit out of the box, but it’s such a nice solution that they’ve chosen to endorse it as their solution to the issue. Your Sky devices will appear as HomeKit supported thermostats and related sensors, with all of the required control options.
TadoAlthough Tado now supports HomeKit on all of their devices, this plug gives you the same features like a Smart AC Control prior to version 3. Since the Smart AC Control differs from a standard AC controller in that it is dependent on a set of custom attributes, it does not appear as a thermostat. For other intents and purposes, it still functions the same way.
MyQIf you’re in the United States, Chamberlain has a HomeKit-compatible bridge. And consumers in the United States have complained about the official solution’s lack of reliability, which this option would not seem to have.
Some of the other plugins are1. Nest & Nest Cams
2. Kasa Smart Home via TP-Link
3. deCONZ / Hue (Zigbee)
4. Harmony by Logitech

Why Homebridge is needed

Apple HomeKit is a great device for voice management and automation, but it has a lot of limitations when it comes to hardware support. For example there is no Nest support or Sonos compatibility on the network. This is where Homebridge enters the picture.

Homebridge, which can operate on almost any machine, serves as a connection between HomeKit and other computers. Homebridge is an open-source project that emulates the iOS HomeKit API. It is a lightweight NodeJS server that offers the support that the application lacks. Further, it is not associated with Apple in any way, and you can use it at your own risk, as in all open-source applications.

  • Simple UI:

The Homebridge UI is a user-friendly GUI for handling your Homebridge plugins, configurations, and accessories.

  • Make sure you install and configure all plugins for Homebridge.
  • A completely customizable widget-based dashboard helps you to keep track of your Homebridge server.
  • You can also view and regulate Homebridge accessories.
  • Your Homebridge instance can be backed up and restored.

Homebridge on the computer?

HomeBridge is supported on Windows, macOS, Linux and Raspbian. However the important thing to remember is, the device hosting HomeBridge should be powered on 24X7. Further, officially, it can be run with 1GB of RAM, but I’d recommend at least 2GB for a little more wiggle space.

As a result Raspberry Pi is the popular choice, as the tiny device needs very little power to operate.

For more details on ‘How to set up Homebridge’, check out the given video.

HomeBridge Installation Steps

HomeBridge Code is opensource and you can find it in the HomeBridge GitHub page. It outlines steps for Installing and Configuring HomeBridge on multiple HW & OS platforms in detail. Then if you want to install HomeBridge on Raspberry Pi, you can read the Raspberry Pi installation instructions on the HomeBridge Wiki to get the initial necessary components mounted. Further, for setting up Raspberry pi pico, read our article ‘How to set up and program Raspberry pi pico.’

For installation of HomeBridge to another OS visit the HOMEBRIDGE website.

To download and install Homebridge, follow the instructions on the Homebridge GitHub website. When downloading, use the following command line from a terminal window:

Step 1npm install -g –unsafe-perm HomeBridge
sudo npm install -g –unsafe-perm HomeBridge
Step 2You’re done, and HomeBridge is now built on your screen. You will run it by typing “HomeBridge” into the command prompt.
Step 3A QR code would appear on the computer, along with a message stating that there is no config.json file and that no plugins are installed
Step 4For the time being, exit Homebridge by pressing CTRL+C (Apple+C on a Mac) in its Terminal window.
HomeBridge installation steps on raspberry pi

Installation of plugins:

A plugin for HomeBridge that emulates the functionality of a HomeKit bridge system, such as this one.

In a nutshell, the goal of this plugin is for things to work with very little configuration from you, the end-user. The goal is to provide an experience that is as close to a first-party or native HomeKit solution as possible. Those more granular options are, of course, available to support more esoteric use cases or other unique needs for the daring.

Before proceeding, please read the Homebridge documentation and installation instructions if you are new to Homebridge.

The configuration file must then be modified (or created). Then you can open a command prompt on a Linux or Raspberry Pi computer and enter nano ~/.Homebridge/config.json. Brackets is a programme that we use on both Mac and Windows machines.

From the File > New menu in Brackets, you can create a new list. Select Save, and then assign the file a proper name and save it in the appropriate directory. You must type the following directory name into the save dialogue box on Windows: users. Homebridge is located at c:\users\\.Homebridge.

For Mac users, click Apple+Shift+G in the save dialogue box, then type: /.Homebridge. Enter config.json as the file name in both cases. With Brackets, the config.json file is still accessible when you launch the programme, so you can pick it, type the text you need, and save it for future updates.

Configuring your Homebridge:

You will now begin to fill in the blanks with the details you need. To begin, you’ll need a simple configuration like this:

{
“bridge”:{
“name”: “Homebridge”,
“username”: “CC:22:3D:E3:CE:30”,
“port”: “031-45-154”
},
“description”: “Homebridge server.”,
“ports”:{
“start”: 52100,
“end”:52150,
“statement”: “The section allows you to specify the ports need to be bound.”.
},
}

You may adjust the username and pin, but the formatting and length must be consistent.

Adding plugins:

Homebridge includes plugins to run. Each plugin is made to operate with a particular product, such as a Nest Thermostat. You must update the configuration file in addition to downloading the plugin (config.json). It’s best to start with a single device and then install each new device one at a time.

Using the search box on the home tab, you can find plugins on the Homebridge website. 

For example, we looked up the word ‘Nest.’ Find the one that best suits the interface you choose to use in the search results. We chose the Homebridget-nest addon, which helps both Nest Thermostats. Further, the Nest Protect smoke detector, was selected to get a Nest Thermostat working.

When you pick a plugin, the installation instructions will appear, along with the command to install it. Ignore the instructions for installing Homebridge (you’ve already done that) and instead select the module installation instructions.

Whether you’re using Linux or macOS, you’ll possibly need to apply sudo (which enables administrators to grant users device privileges) to the front of the command. We had to type the following into a command line for Nest while we were using macOS:

Command line for Nest while using macOS:
<device>sudo npm install -g Homebridge.nest
</dsevice>

You’ll need to connect the platform to your config.json in your home directory inside.Homebridge if you don’t want to use the Homebridge Configuration web UI to customize the plugin.

On the website for each addon, there is an explanation of what to join. For Nest, for example, you’ll need:

"platforms": [{
"platform": "Nest",
"email": "your [email protected]",
"password": "your Account password"
}],

After that, save your config file and run Homebridge. You’ll be asked to enter a PIN that will be texted to you if you have two-factor authentication enabled. This is something you’ll have to do any time you use Homebridge for two-factor authentication. Your computer’s screen would then show a QR code and PIN, indicating that Homebridge is operational.

Instead of configuring this plugin directly, I consider using the Homebridge Setup web UI for most users. Most younger users, find it easy to use because it’s less vulnerable to typos, which can lead to other issues.

Feature options to this plugin:

You can allow or disable those functions in this plugin using feature options.

A collection of strings is used to configure function choices in the options environment. Optional features include:

  • Hide.serialnumber – Conceal from HomeKit the opener or gateway marked by serial number.
  • Show.serialnumber – displays the HomeKit opener or gateway marked by serial number.

The plugin can keep track of all devices it sees and is aware of, which you will use to determine whether you want to cover or reveal. A standard home would have one or two openers and a single gateway. If you want to cover a gateway, all of the openers connected with that gateway would be concealed as well. If you’ve concealed a gateway and all of its openers, you can use the Show. feature choice to selectively allow a single opener associated with that gateway. This should give you a lot of versatility when it comes to activating or disabling devices for HomeKit.

Homebridge on your phone:

Open the Home app on your iOS computer until your setup is complete. Then choose ‘+’ and then ‘Add accessory.’ Pick your Homebridge machine on the next page if you don’t have a secret or can’t search.

Although you will be advised that this is an Uncertified Accessory, choose Add Instead. Enter the HomeKit initialization code manually (the main PIN in your configuration file).

You get a switch that switches Eco mode on or off, the main thermostat power, and a switch that decides whether you’re at home or not for Nest Thermostats, for example. When your Homebridge server is operating, all of the devices you connect will appear.

Adding additional devices:

You will connect more gadgets to Homebridge until it’s up and running. As previously said, it’s best to do them one at a time so you can double-check that, and one works. To attach a new device, first, turn off your Homebridge server, then follow the above instructions to download and install the plugin.

Each platform you add should be separated by a comma and enclosed in curly brackets. For eg, consider the following configuration for Nest and Wemo:


"platforms": [{
"platform": "Nest",
"email": "your email @ email address",
"password": "yourAccount password"
},
{
"platform": "BelkinWeMo",
"name": "WeMo Platform"
}
],

Plugins and gadgets should be connected to your Homebridge registry to extend HomeKit’s functionality. Siri can monitor anything you connect to your cloud, whether it’s on your Watch, iPhone, or HomePod, and you can use devices in Automations.

The biggest advantage of Homebridge: Configuring a username and password, connecting the computer to HomeKit, and adding devices are all covered by the wizard. You can even make it run on Wi-Fi after you’ve set it up.

NOTE: –

This isn’t as secure as a hardware-authenticated HomeKit system and it is as secure as 

  • the computer/server on which it operates 
  • and the router to which it is connected.

If you’re running it on a Raspberry Pi and still have a beginner web server running on it, uploading the Pi to the internet increases the risk of being hacked.

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