As the number of smart home products on the market continues to grow, so too has the use of developer APIs. These products can take you far beyond the capabilities of the developer’s apps and services. This gives you the opportunity to make your home as functional and creative as you can imagine!
In this article, you’ll learn more about how APIs work and how they can benefit you as a smart home buyer. You’ll also see some examples of these APIs in practice. Don’t be afraid to move beyond the base-level apps and processes — the world of third-party APIs is an amazing next step for any smart home owner!
What Are APIs?
APIs, or application programming interfaces, are definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software. In the most general sense, these are the lines of code that allow various software components to talk to one another to allow various tasks or actions to happen. APIs take many forms: web-based systems, operating systems, databases, software libraries, and more.
Smart home APIs allow third-party apps and services to interact with products such as lights, weather stations, and learning thermometers. In doing so, they can enhance your smart home experience by providing services or tools not specifically being offered by the hardware vendor.
Smart Home APIs
Numerous companies now offer APIs to developers for their smart home products. In this section, you’ll learn about APIs from five of the most recognized businesses in the industry, including Philips Hue, Nest, Netatmo, Insteon, and Amazon.
The Hue system from Philips offers perhaps the most recognizable smart home products on the planet today. The company’s smart lighting products are easily controllable from anywhere in the world using the official Philips Hue app.
Thanks to the Philips Hue API, there’s a growing list of third-party mobile apps and web-based solutions that can also help you to control your lights, in ways that are not offered by the company. There are third-party solutions for various platforms, including Android, iOS, Kindle, Windows Phones, macOS, Windows, and Chrome.
The Philips Hue API has become so popular there’s now a website, apps4hue.com, that’s not associated with the company. At this site, you’ll find an extensive catalog of Hue apps organized by category, including Kids, Automation, Health, Mood, and more.
The Philips Hue API is free to developers. If you are considering building your own product, all you need to do is register.
You can quickly get lost in the vast number of third-party solutions for Philips Hue. We’ve uncovered three worth considering:
- Hue Thunder ($2.99) offers different thunder simulations with various settings. Each light effect syncs with background sounds to create an immersive experience.
- OnSwitch (Free with in-app purchases) continues to be one of the most popular third-party solutions for Philip Hue lighting. With the app, you can choose from over 30 animated and static effects.
- Each day can be an adventure with Hue Party for Mac (Free to try). Use the app to sync dynamic lighting with tempo and audio input with presets. Features include a stroboscope, candle flickering, ambient lighting, and more.
The Nest Developer Program, which launched in 2014, allows third-party developers to create solutions to link “things you already use every day” with Nest products. These include objects like lights, appliances, fitness bands, and more. You can find tools and support for use on iOS, Android, and the web.
Nest products include the popular Nest Learning Thermostat, indoor/outdoor cameras, and the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm system.
As Nest explains:
“By giving you access to Home and Away states, motion and sound events, smoke and CO alerts, and peak energy rush hour events, we’re giving you the tools you need to build thoughtful integrations. Integrations that happen on their own, so your products don’t have to rely on users telling it what to do.”
The Nest API offers subscription-based access to data shared by Nest devices.
- Caséta Wireless offers automated light and shade control products. Each is compatible with the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Protect, and Nest Cam.
- The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Generation 2 helps you save water and money. When connected with Nest, it can turn your sprinklers on automatically when Nest Protect senses smoke inside your home.
- Thanks to the Nest API, Haiku’s smart ceiling fans react to seasonal and temperature changes automatically.
Amazon Echo is one of the most popular smart home products ever created. One of the reasons for its continued popularity is Amazon’s Smart Home Skill API. This tool allows smart home appliance manufacturers to create products that can communicate with Alexa, Amazon’s voice recognition software.
As a result, users can use speech to control lights, door locks, thermostats, fans, and more. The biggest players in the smart home industry have products that interact with Alexa, including Philips Hue, Ecobee, and Samsung SmartThings. There are already over 450 Alexa smart home integrations, with more added monthly.
Developers can download and use the Smart Home Skill API for free.
It seems like almost everyone is releasing a smart home product that connects to Amazon Alexa. Here are two that stand out:
- With the Wink skill for Alexa, you can use your voice to adjust settings on your Wink-compatible products, including lights, outlets, switches, locks, and thermostats.
- Meanwhile, the Dyson skill lets you control your Dyson connected machines with Alexa. Interact with, control, and monitor your Dyson technology using only your voice.
Since 2016, Netatmo has offered three Netatmo Connect API programs for developers. These include Netatmo Weather for customized weather services, Netatmo Smart Home for intuitive product interactions, and Netatmo Enterprise for commercial customers.
Besides personal weather stations, Netatmo sells air care, security, and energy smart products. These include the Healthy Home Coach, the Presence surveillance camera, Netatmo Smart Thermostat, and the recently introduced Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm.
Membership in Netatmo Connect (their API interface) is free.
- Accuweather uses Netatmo Personal Weather Station network data to enhance its meteorological sources across its many platforms.
- Netatmo has partnered with IFTTT to create connections between various smart home devices. In doing so, Netatmo has access to one of the largest databases of services and apps in the industry.
Insteon offers a full line of smart home products including thermostats, wall switches, plug-in devices, LED bulbs, and more. With the all-in-one Insteon Hub, you can monitor your home from your smartphone or tablet, configure alerts from sensors, create schedules, and more.
The Insteon Program offers an API that connects accessory manufacturers and platforms to the Insteon Hub experience. These partners include some of the biggest names in the smart home industry like Amazon, Sonos, Logitech, and Apple.
It’s important to note that you must be accepted in order to join the free Insteon Program and access Insteon’s API.
- The Insteon-Logitech partnership means that you can control your Insteon smart home products with your Logitech Harmony remote. This can revolutionize your in-home entertainment — you can have your Harmony dim your lights and turn up the sound on your speaker every time you press the “Watch A Movie” activity button.
- Own a Sonos speaker? Use the Insteon Keypad, Mini Remote, or sensor to include music in Insteon scenes.
So Much to See
If you own a smart home product, the odds are pretty high there’s an API out there that the manufacturer has developed to allow third-party developers to make their devices even smarter. To find third-party solutions for your smart devices, head over to the company’s official site first. From there, you should find links to other solutions.
Third-party solutions are also often listed within your product’s official app or through a search in your preferred app store. With a little bit of searching you should find multiple third-party apps to improve your smart home experience!
Are you taking advantage of smart home APIs and their solutions for your products? Which ones? Let us know in the comments below.