The software supports a limited number of thermostats, along with lighting controls from Lutron and Insteon.  Apple's new Homekit software products could be an important step for the emerging industry of "smart" or "connected" homes.

The first “smart” home gadgets that can be controlled by Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant are going on sale this week, just days after rival tech giant Google announced it’s building its own software for Internet-connected home appliances and other gadgets.

Apple also said products using HomeKit software must meet standards for compatibility, so they work with HomeKit products made by other manufacturers, and for encryption, which keeps hackers from taking over a system or stealing user information.

The first batch of home automation accessories, such as thermostats and garage door openers, compatible with Apple Inc's software platform will go on sale this month.

HomeKit is a set of tools in Apple's iOS 8 software designed to work with smart home devices. The company announced the home automation platform at its conference for developers last year, but devices compatible with the software have yet to appear in stores.