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Home Kit 101- Home Automation

Who doesn’t dream of a home that does everything for you?  Fear not. Apple is working on making that dream a reality.

What is HomeKit?

HomeKit is Apple’s solution to connecting and controlling home automation products.  HomeKit itself is not an app, but rather a software framework that allows product manufacturers to integrate their automated accessories with Apple’s devices.  The former are what you want to control (e.g. turn on, turn off, etc.), and the latter are what you’re going to use to do the controlling. Hence, once you’ve purchased and set up one or more automated devices, you can use the iOS-only Home app on your phone, tablet or Apple Watch to regulate them.  You can also direct Siri to control the devices by voice command. The Home app is also available for Macs, but it can’t be used to add accessories.

Where do I begin?

Using HomeKit to link your accessories and iOS devices is a breeze.  To start, all you need is your charged iOS device, with the Home app already installed, and a single compatible accessory, plugged in and near at hand.

  • The “Add Accessory” function in the Home app easily imports the accessory’s specs via the product’s 8-digit HomeKit code.  It then asks you to name it and identify its location within the home.
  • Accessories you use often can be marked as favourites.  This gives you quick access to them on the Home tab of the app, Control Center of your iPhone or Apple Watch.
  • Accessory information can easily be edited if, for example, you relocate a security camera or swap out bulbs.

Since most of us don’t live alone and/or use multiple Apple devices, the HomeKit allows for shared access.

  • So long as they have an iOS device, are signed into iCloud and have adjusted the necessary settings there, you can invite someone else to control your home.  When assigning their access-level, you can decide whether they are permitted to add or remove accessories, create new scenes, invite additional users, etc. This way, you can give your significant other full access but grant lesser power to younger children or a babysitter, for example.
  • There are just two steps to enabling all your iOS devices and/or Macs to manage your automated accessories.  First, sign in to iCloud on each of them. Second, turn on iCloud Keychain and Home in iCloud Settings.

What else can I do with HomeKit?

Once you have multiple automated accessories in the app, things get more exciting.

  • Since you assigned each of your accessories to a room upon adding them to the Home app, you may choose to control them together based on their shared location.  For widespread control, you can even define “zones,” or groups of rooms, such as “basement” or “rear of the house”
  • Accessories can also be grouped and controlled together to suit often-repeated scenarios in your life or “scenes.”  A scene called “going out” for example, might turn off all the interior lights, turn on the porch light and lock the front door.  Similarly, “bedtime” might turn off the downstairs lights and lower the thermostat temperature.
  • If you have more than one home or automation at the office as well, you can create multiple “homes.”  Just be careful when deleting these as doing so will cause you to lose all of their accessories’ information.

HomeKit does not require a central hub no matter how many compatible devices you install.  That said, you’ll gain greater functionality and more options if you do merge everything together through an Apple TV, HomeHub or iPad that remains on-site.

  • Without such a hub, you are limited to customizing and directing your accessories while you are physically at home.  Remote access and control are only possible with a hub.
  • Some HomeKit accessories can send notifications to your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac if you allow them and use a hub.  A lock, for example, can tell you when it’s opened or a sensor when it thinks there’s a flood. The Home app can also send you notifications at designated times or depending on who is in your home.
  • With a hub, you can automate accessories to perform actions in response to what another accessory does or senses.  For example, you can automate certain lights to switch on when the front door senses it has been unlocked. You can also set automation to be triggered by who’s home and a pre-set time.

What automated products work with HomeKit?

Apple has partnered with several well-known brands, including Honeywell and Phillips, to provide high-quality automated accessories.  When shopping for such devices, be sure to check that have the “Works with Apple HomeKit” label on their packaging. While HomeKit has only been around since 2014, the number of compatible products available has grown and should continue to do so as users multiply.  A few examples of current offerings are:

  • Cameras
    • Logitech Circle 2 Indoor/Outdoor Weatherproof Wired Security Camera
    • Arlo Baby 1080p HD Monitoring Camera
  • Lights and Bulbs
    • Philips Hue White Starter Kit
    • Nanoleaf Remote
  • Door Locks
    • Schlage Smart Sense Deadbolt
    • August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
  • Electrical Outlets
    • iDevices Socket
    • Pure Gear PureSwitch Wireless Smart Plug
  • Thermostats
    • Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Thermostat
    • iDevices Thermostat
  • Sensors
    • Onelink by First Alert Environment Monitor
    • FIBARO Flood Sensor
    • Eve Door & Window Wireless Contact Sensor

Is HomeKit safe to use?

Given the function of HomeKit, Apple has taken a very serious approach to its security and privacy.  For example:

  • With end-to-end encryption between all automated devices and your iOS controller, no third party should be able to take control of your accessories or steal your data.
  • Apple will not store information about your home and devices on their servers.
  • Except for triggers, which must be expressly set up by the user, HomeKit apps only work in the foreground.  For example, you can set some interior lights to turn on when the front door senses it has been unlocked.


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