It started when Belkin released a firmware update for their Mini Smart Plug which enables HomeKit. I happened to have a couple of these devices already; after I updated them, I suddenly had my first couple of HomeKit devices.
At first, this was mostly a novelty. I could use Alexa to control our lights, which was often far more convenient and reliable than Siri. However, being able to turn lights on and off using my Watch made me feel like I was living in the future.
HomeKit fell onto my mental back burner until I noticed a tweet by Ryan Jones. Ryan was wondering aloud about installing Homebridge on a Raspberry Pi. Ryan’s tweet reminded me that I’ve been meaning to kick the tires on Homebridge since Jason and Federico had been talking about it.
Homebridge is a software bridge that allows you to put devices that are not HomeKit compatible onto HomeKit. It has a plugin-based architecture that allows you to download plugins for a ton of different IoT devices. Homebridge can be run on most any computer; that’s why Ryan was looking at running it on a tiny, low-cost, Raspberry Pi.
Ryan’s musings had one key piece that I hadn’t considered, however: Docker. Docker is sort of two things rolled into one: virtualization and downloadable containers (much like virtual machine images) that effectively bootstrap the installation of applications. These applications are then sandboxed into their containers, so they can’t [easily] mess with the rest of the system they’re running on.
Though I’d never used Docker before, I understood the basic principle behind it, and thanks to a link in Ryan’s tweet, I realized I could get a Docker container that has Homebridge pre-installed on it.
The final piece that really opened everything up for me was realizing that my Synology has Docker support. Furthermore, after but a moment of digging, I was able to find instructions specifically for setting up Homebridge on a Synology in Docker.
Following those instructions, within about 10 minutes, I had a Docker container on my Synology, running Homebridge, and allowing me to see my not-yet-updated Wemo devices in HomeKit!
Unfortunately, I have yet to find Homebridge plugins for my thermostat nor my garage door opener. However, with less esoteric devices, you may have far better luck. Furthermore, if you have a Mac or PC that is always on, there’s no reason you couldn’t run the Homebridge Docker container on that device as well.
So, here in early 2019, I’m finally enjoying the fruits of 2014’s technological advances.