Sensor is quite a broad term, and because the HomeKit space is still quite small at the moment, we’ve put together this bumper article on all the best Apple HomeKit sensors, regardless of what they’re sensing. If you want to see more from our Apple HomeKit series, you can see all our articles here. Last week we took a look at the best Apple HomeKit lightbulbs. An admittedly short list to choose from.
When it comes to Apple compatible products, there are two areas. You get the general products which have iOS apps available for them, but can’t be used in the Apple Home app. If you’re looking for products that you can integrate into your Home scenes, you need a product that is approved by Apple, and will bare the “Works with Apple HomeKit” logo. It’s as simple as that. This list shows only products that are compatible with Apple HomeKit.
Elgato Eve are the leading sensor developer for Apple HomeKit, with more products in the space than any other manufacturer. This Door and Window sensor serves as a security sensor, letting you know whenever the door or window that you attach it to is open. The sensor has two parts, a magnet part that is usually attached to the moving fixture, and the electronics part that you fix to the wall or frame.
The device runs off a single battery which claims to be long lasting, but an exact lifetime is not specified. The device uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone, or your Apple TV when you’re not around. The sensor can provide notifications as a door is opened, you can view logs of all the events, or use it to trigger scenes in Apple Home.
The unit is provided with double-sided tape to mount it, and if you’re wanting to move the device, will leave some material behind. They’re a bit pricey for what they are, but currently it has no direct competitor. Notifications are not always instantaneous, and triggered events can take a while to occur, turning lights on etc. This can be as bad as 30 seconds according to some users.
The Elgato Eve Motion Sensor is virtually identical in operation and specifications to the door and window sensor. It’s compatibility and communication is the same, with the only difference how the device is triggered. The motion sensor is obviously triggered by something moving, making use of a fairly standard infrared sensor, much the same as outdoor lights, and alarm sensors.
The motion sensor comes packaged with the two AA batteries it requires to operate, and to mount the device, it features a screw hanging cut-out on the back. To improve your use cases, the sensitivity of the device is adjustable with an up to 30 foot range and 120 degree field of view. It is further IPX3 water resistant, suitable for protected outdoor use.
The same kind of product as the Eve motion sensor, but in a very different package and from a different manufacturer. And by different package, we mean weird. The Fibaro Motion Sensor is literally in the shape of an enlarged eyeball (modelled on a cat’s eye). It’s also $20 more expensive. The eye seen here is blue in appearance, but the colour changes depending on the temperature of the room from blue (cold) to green (normal) and through to orange (warm). The light also only illuminates when movement is detected. All this and it still detects motion via a infrared sensor. Several users have complained that the sensitivity of the device is not adjustable, but according to Fibaro, the mobile app can be used to set a parameter, scaling between small and large animals and humans.
The included battery will let the device operate for up to two years before requiring replacement, and the rotating mount lets you place the sensor wherever you want, whether it be desk, wall or ceiling. It does have some other factors which put it ahead of the Eve product, that includes temperature and light intensity measurement as well as a built in accelerometer which can detect if it is being tampered with. If you can get over the design, for the extra money it is far more functional than the motion only Eve product, and would probably get our recommendation.
Connectivity is via standard Bluetooth, requiring an AppleTV when you’re not at home with your mobile iDevice.
This product while not a sensor by name, is just that. Called the Onelink Environment monitor, it has sensors checking air quality, temperature and humidity, and it will do this wherever you put it. Air quality is measured by determining the level of carbon monoxide in the room. If this gets too high, an alarm is sounded. Other data can be used to change the colour of the ring on the device.
The device is the first of our plugged in devices, but does feature a battery backup to keep monitoring when the power goes out. Being always plugged in also allows the device to make use of Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. The device can be used to help control a central heating system, but beyond that we battle to see it’s real use case. Away from home access requires an AppleTV on the same Wi-Fi network.
The iHome iSS50 smart monitor takes the Fibaro one step further with 5 different built in sensors. It has an infrared motion detector, temperature and light sensor, but has added humidity and sound detectors. It does however need to be plugged in, communicating via Wi-Fi. As such it loses out on some of the convenience of the battery powered Fibaro.
As expected you can receive notifications for all of these measurements, and use them to trigger different events, such as turning on lights, or opening and closing blinds. Features seem to differ quite drastically between using just the Home app, and iHome’s own app, so make sure it can be applied in the manner you want before purchase. The device has a large screen which gives you status information if you’re so inclined, and the sensitivity of the motion sensor can be adjusted.
Elgato Eve sell two identical looking products. One an indoor room sensor, and the other an outdoor weather sensor. While similar in function and operation, and they both measure temperature and humidity, the outdoor sensor monitors air pressure, and the room sensor keeps tabs on your air quality. Both of them use Bluetooth for connectivity with the weather station coming out $20 cheaper than the room sensor.
Both are powered by AA batteries, and promise ‘long life’. The biggest issue with the weather sensor is placing it outside stretches the limits of the Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you can’t always put it where you want as it’s too far from your linked iDevice. Whether either product is worth buying will depend on what value you expect to derive from their outputs.
Another product from First Alert, this time a smoke alarm. It comes in two variants, one a hard-wired option that can be plugged into existing smoke alarm systems, and the other a battery operated alternative which will run for up to 10 years without requiring replacement. Both the battery and AC powered devices surprisingly operate on Wi-Fi, and can additionally use Bluetooth to link multiple units and trigger alarms simultaneously.
First Alert (who manufacture the Onelink device) have been manufacturing general purpose smoke alarms for many years and are a trusted name, but several users have reported issues with their Wi-Fi smoke alarms.Firstly, it appears that the product is not compatible with Home on iOS10. It is purported to be planned for an upcoming firmware upgrade, but confirmation of this has not yet been obtained.
Although the device offers a number of features, we’re concerned by the number of complaints the product has received. On Apple’s own website it has received only one-star ratings, And on Amazon, customers have many complaints about it. Not our pick should you be looking for a connected smoke alarm.
Automation Haus Verdict
Trying to decide which sensor is the best is not really a fruitful exercise. We’ve reviewed four different types of sensors here, each one used for a different purpose. You should pick yours depending on what you need. On the whole we’re impressed with the Eve products, and how hard they are working to be successful in the Apple HomeKit arena. The only downside to all the sensors is the delay between triggering events, and the limited range of the Bluetooth to an active hub, whether AppleTV or mobile device. The products are not where we want them to be, with a lot of blame being placed on Apple for the delay in communication between devices as well as limited Home functionality. We hope this improves in the future.