Friday, September 18, 2020

What is HomeKit? – Everything you need to know

Apple released HomeKit in September 2014 with iOS 8, and since then we have seen several developments and changes. Apple updated the latest version of HomeKit for iOS 13 and this guide to reflect these changes and improvements.

Learning about HomeKit and setup is easy, it just takes a little effort. So in this HomeKit guide, I will take you through the basics of setup, accessories. Along with advanced features like HomeKit Secure Video and automations and scenes.

What is HomeKit?

HomeKit is Apple’s smart home platform, which communicates directly with connected accessories within the home. It also securely encrypts all data and even works remotely when used with HomeKit hub such as an Apple TV, HomePod or iPad.

You can also use Siri voice commands with HomeKit to control your smart home accessories. For more advanced use, you can also use automation features along with scenes.

What Can you Do With HomeKit?

HomeKit isn’t a product or software, it’s a framework that links smart home products together. It can add new capabilities to devices like lights, locks, cameras, thermostats, plugs. You can control smart home products using apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, or Siri voice commands.

For more advance use, you can use HomeKit automations and scenes to control multiple HomeKit-enabled accessories. This gives you a level of control over devices without having to control them directly.

You can, for example, create a “Goodnight” scene that makes sure the doors are locked, blinds closed, turns off the lights and turns on the security system With automation, you can also set individual HomeKit devices to come on or off at specific times. You can also use other devices to trigger another device.

What do you need to run HomeKit?HomeKit with HomePod and Apple TV

  • iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 8.1 or later. I would recommend using iOS 13 to get the latest HomeKit features.
  • At least one HomeKit-enabled accessory
  • Companion iOS app for each HomeKit-enabled accessory
  • Home Wi-Fi network (internet enabled for remote control)
  • HomeKit hub, a third generation Apple TV or newer or a HomePod or iPad.

Setting up a HomeKit smart home

Once you have all the various components to set up a HomeKit smart home. The next step is setting up your smart home. But one important thing to remember is the HomeKit hierarchy and delegations in that hierarchy.

  • Home – This is your home where you live.
  • Rooms – This is a room in your home and you need at least one for HomeKit.
  • Accessory – An Accessory is assigned to a room and you need at least of these
  • Groups/Zones – This is a group of rooms or accessories. For instance, in my home, I have downstairs, upstairs and outside. I can then ask Siri “Turn the downstairs lights off” Siri will then turn the downstairs lights off.
  • Scenes – Scenes within HomeKit can be a collection of accessories to create a mood. So  when you say Hey Siri set TV scene Siri will then set the lights to the TV light scene you have programmed.
  • Automation/Triggers – Triggers are actions that happen when a certain event takes place. So for instance, if you have set a trigger to turn on lights and unlock the door when you are 500 meters from home, Then HomeKit will do this for you. Please note you need an Apple TV running to use HomeKit triggers and automation.

How to Pair HomeKit Accessories

HomeKit-enabled accessories have a setup code that is included on the product or to complete the pairing process, open the HomeKit accessory’s companion app and use your device’s camera at the setup point to scan it. You then follow the setup process which will take you through naming the device and assigning to a room.

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How to add a device to HomeKit

Accessory Names

If you didn’t name the HomeKit device when you setup it up, its worth doing it afterwards. Names are used to control an individual HomeKit device via Siri. Out of the box, HomeKit enabled devices ship with a name and it is usually the name of the product. So for instance, a Philips Hue bulb would be called “Philips Hue Bulb”

In order not to confuse you and Siri, I would recommend renaming the device to something that is easy to remember. You also need to remember that each HomeKit connected device needs a unique name.

Rooms and Zones

I would also recommend assigning a room to each HomeKit products. This then allows for  room-based voice commands like “Turn off the lights in the bedroom.” A Siri command that incorporates a room will control all the devices assigned to that room. Like device Names, Room names need to be unique.

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How to add a room within HomeKit

A Room can be any part of your home, ranging from a bedroom or bathroom to a dining room or office. Rooms can also be outside in HomeKit such as a garage or a garden. If you are using a lot of HomeKit supported devices, then I would recommend creating rooms and adding the devices to the relevant room for each control. It also makes it easy when creating scenes and HomeKit automation triggers.

Zones are a collection of multiple Rooms that represent a larger area of your home. For instance I have upstairs, and downstairs zones create in my home. Within that zone I all the rooms within HomeKit assigned. Then when I go upstairs to bed, I ask Siri “Turn off the downstairs lights.”

Scenes

You can use HomeKit scenes for a variety of different things and even combine them with triggers and automation. So, for example, you could setup a scene called romance and set all the lights in a specific area to romantic lighting tones. You could also have one for relaxing, which sets the lights to calming tones and also closes the blinds in the room to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Setting them up is as simple as assigning HomeKit products to each one by selecting a scene and choosing the desired accessory. You can have an unlimited amount of scenes, but in my experience, you only need a few to create the right mood or atmosphere in your home.

Automations

HomeKit takes home automation one step further with automation control. This feature lets you connect and control combinations of accessories at once. For example, when you have a trigger set to “arriving home,” which can automatically turn on the lights for the drive, set the thermostat and unlock the front door. In reverse of that, the scene “leaving home” can be set to turn off all of your lights, lock your doors and turn the temperature on the thermostat.

You can set automations for specific times or for specific events. For instance, you may want all the lights in the house to start turning on at sunset. You can also set these triggers to activate based on the preference of people in the home or just you. So, for example, if you have the heating to turn off at 10 am, but only if no-one is in the house.

You also use automations to trigger other devices with another device. So for instance, with a motion sensor like the Philips Hue motion sensor. A trigger can be set up to turn on the bathroom lights whenever motion is detected.

Group HomeKit Accessories 

Sometimes, certain accessories are easier to control when paired together. For instance, if you have a ceiling light or lamp that requires multiple bulbs. So giving you an example, I have 6 down lights in my bathroom powered by 6 Philips Hue G10 bulbs. Each of these Philips Hue G10 bulbs I have named them “bathroom 1”, “bathroom 2” and so on.

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How to group HomeKit accessories together

So when I want to turn the lights on or off, I have to do it to both bulbs individually. but using this method you can control the smart lights with one tap of a button.

HomeKit icons

The Home app gives all your HomeKit accessories a default icon whenever you add them to HomeKit. But you can change the icons to identify smart accessories. You can change icons for a number of devices like lights, power sockets and blinds.

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How to change icons in HomeKit

Not all HomeKit accessory types have multiple icons. Sensors, cameras, and many others only have one default icon. I am hoping this will change with updates to HomeKit in future releases of iOS.

Use Siri Voice assistant to control HomeKit

You can also use Siri to control your HomeKit smart home with simple commands like “Turn the living room lights on” or Turn the thermostat down to 15 degrees” I have found using the voice commands less when I am out of the house and even in the house I tend to use the Home app, however, this could change with the introduction of HomePod.

HomeKit Secure Video

HomeKit Secure Video is Apple’s latest HomeKit feature that brings camera streaming, recording, and activity notifications directly to the Home app. The camera will record the footage as normal, with live viewing available as usual. While recording, your HomeKit hub locally processes the video for motion detection and sends the relevant alert. Once the recording is complete, HomeKit encrypts the video files and then uploaded to iCloud for viewing.

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HomeKit Secure Video guide - Everything you need to Know

HomeKit Guides

Below is a collection of HomeKit getting started guides. These will give you a detailed walkthrough for how to get setup with HomeKit in no time.

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How to add a device to HomeKit

Must read
How to add a room within HomeKit

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How to group HomeKit accessories together

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How to change icons in HomeKit

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How to change wallpapers in HomeKit Home App

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How to show HomeKit accessories as separate tiles

Reviews of HomeKit Accessories

HomeKit would not be any good without the available accessories for Apple’s smart home platform.  These HomeKit accessories range from thermostats to help heat our homes, lighting products to control the light, security devices like cameras and alarms and sensors to detect motion or air quality in the smart home.

Below is a list of HomeKit reviews to get you decide if they are the right ones for you.

Well thats a wrap, Don’t forget to subscribe for more smart home and HomeKit reviews and reviews. If you have a question or a comment, then leave it below. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebookYouTube and Instagram.

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Author

Jon Ratcliffe
I have a huge passion for technology having worked in the sector for over 18 years in a variety of roles. I write for active JR covering wearables and smart home My reviews and information will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.

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