Apple HomeKit wants to help lock down your security cameras, and here's why you need it

Apple HomeKit Secure Video promises a privacy-focused approach to storing your security camera footage, but what does that really mean?

Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
5 min read

Apple introduced HomeKit Secure Video at WWDC 2019.


James Martin/CNET

Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, announced HomeKit Secure Video on stage at WWDC 2019 Monday.  

The tech giant claims HomeKit Secure Video is an answer to customer privacy concerns over how smart-home security camera footage is stored and analyzed -- and who has access to it. 

Privacy has become an increasingly relevant topic in the tech industry as major companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google have come under fire for data breaches, questions about how information is stored and used -- and accusations of bias

All three of these companies offer consumer devices with built-in cameras, which has prompted further questions about how they're used in our homes. Apple doesn't sell camera-equipped smart home devices, but it partners them via its HomeKit smart home platform.

From the D-Link Omna to Philips Hue and the Ecobee SmartThermostat, see what smart home devices work with HomeKit

Apple took a strong privacy-centric stance at WWDC, extending beyond HomeKit Secure Video to every device in its lineup, but Federighi spent time focusing on security cameras during his presentation.

According to Federighi, most home security cameras today send your videos to the cloud to be analyzed, which poses a threat to your privacy. 

Rather than sending your videos to the cloud first, Apple proposed something different at WWDC: "The video is analyzed in your home, on your resident iPad, HomePod or Apple TV, and then it's encrypted and securely sent to iCloud where no one -- not even Apple -- can see it," Federighi said during the keynote presentation.

The idea is that any software analysis needed -- whether it's distinguishing between a car and a person, or something else requiring advanced machine learning -- will happen locally on your iPad, HomePod or Apple TV. After that, it will be encrypted and sent to iCloud for storage.

Apple will offer 10 days of free video-clip storage in iCloud accounts and "it won't count against your storage [limit]," Federighi added.

But how will it work in practice? We have a few clues after talking with Apple and its device partners.

All of the indoor home security cameras we've tested

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Early adopters

Federighi named Eufy, Logitech and Netatmo as the first smart-home brands to join forces with Apple on HomeKit Secure Video. We reached out to the home security companies to learn more about the partnership, particularly whether HomeKit Secure Video would apply to existing cameras and video doorbells or require new production models. Below are the direct responses from company representatives, sent via email:

  • Eufy

We are excited to be working with Apple on the next generation of home security solutions and share its commitment to protecting user privacy. We look forward to sharing more at a later date.

  • Logitech

Logitech is excited to be working with Apple on a camera offering and looks forward to providing people with more amazing products that protect their privacy and security. We will continue to support Circle 2 on Apple HomeKit -- stay tuned for more details in the future.

  • Netatmo

We are very excited to be working with Apple to provide Netatmo users the best smart-home experience and the most advanced technologies that protect user privacy and security. The Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell will be compatible with HomeKit Secure Video at its launch and a free, automatic firmware update will add HomeKit Secure Video compatibility to new and existing Netatmo Smart Indoor Cameras and Smart Outdoor Cameras later this year. Netatmo users can experience HomeKit Secure Video through the Apple Home app on iPhone and iPad with select iCloud storage plans. 

Netatmo's response provides some insight into how HomeKit Secure Video might work. Both its upcoming Smart Video Doorbell and existing indoor and outdoor cameras will support HomeKit Secure Video. The doorbell will offer it "at its launch" and the current Netatmo devices will gain the functionality via a free firmware update. If other existing HomeKit cameras can receive the same upgrade, that sounds like good news. It means that you won't necessarily need to go out and buy a new HomeKit camera to benefit from the the new Secure Video feature.

Netatmo also says that HomeKit Secure Video will be accessible on the Home app for iOS with an Apple iCloud storage plan. The home security company added that customers will have the option to give Apple, Netatmo or both companies access to analyze video footage, explained over email by a Netatmo representative:

Those recognition services work independently. The user can choose to use ours, Apple's or both, and we believe giving that choice is what is best for the user. Practically, when the user chooses to trust and use exclusively Apple's HomeKit Secure Video and its analysis, it is performed on Apple's devices. When the user chooses to trust and use our cameras' embedded analysis, we continue to provide this service.

 If Netatmo will still be able to store video, it suggests that Secure Video might be an opt-in feature. If you're happy with your current cloud storage plan on your HomeKit-compatible camera, or if there's a feature you like that requires analysis on a third party's cloud server, you might still be able to use it even after Secure Video goes live.

With HomeKit Secure Video, a customer can decrypt their footage with a key available only to them, explained Guy "Bud" Tribble, Apple vice president of software technology.


The Netatmo Smart Video Doorbell will support HomeKit Secure Video at launch.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Lingering questions

We still have questions about HomeKit Secure Video; here are some of them:

  • Will HomeKit Secure Video be required for new cameras seeking HomeKit certification once it goes live?
  • Will HomeKit Secure Video in fact allow third-party video storage subscriptions?

We've reached out to Apple on the above questions, but haven't heard back just yet. We also got in touch with Arlo, Nest and Ring to learn more about how their analytics currently work -- whether they're analyzed locally or in the cloud. Note: Arlo, Nest and Ring offer different features, ranging from Ring's standard motion detection to Arlo's person detection and Nest's person detection and facial recognition capabilities.

"Nest Camera technology like face detection analyzes video footage on-device. That data is encrypted and sent to the cloud, where it's matched against the user's familiar face library to generate familiar face alert notifications on the user's mobile phone. This information in the cloud is also encrypted and is only used to provide the user the familiar faces feature and generate the alert notification," a Google Nest spokesperson told me over email.

We'll provide more updates as we learn more. 

One thing seems pretty clear: If HomeKit Secure Video requires an additional Apple device in your home in addition to HomeKit-compatible camera to analyze your videos locally, you will need to make a broader commitment to the Apple ecosystem to get the most out of HomeKit and its new Secure Video feature.

Watch this: HomeKit gets secure video and router support