Are you wondering what Apple HomeKit is? Do you want to get started with Home Automation, but don’t know where to start? Well, you have come to the right place. In this easy to understand article you will learn all about why Apple Homekit is the best Home Automation system.
By the end of the article, you will be able to control lights from your iPhone or using Siri Voice Commands, and even have your first Automation up and running.
HomeKit is a framework made by Apple that allows you to control all of your devices easily and from one place. It allows you to set up and manage all your smart home things from your iPhone, tablet, Apple Watch, Macbook, Apple TV.
This article about HomeKit has a few different parts. There are 4 linked sections that will discuss the different parts of the system in an easy to understand format.
Instead of downloading lots of different apps to control lots of different devices HomeKit allows me to easily integrate and manage everything right from my phone. This means I can use all sorts of different brands like Phillips HUE or WeMo simply and inconveniently.
If the home automation product you are buying says “Works with Home App” then I can set it up, manage and control it right from my home screen, no problem.
The Home app comes preinstalled on all new Apple iPhones iPads and computers so it’s super easy to get started with home automation and Apple HomeKit.
You can also use your Apple Watch, HomePod, or Apple TV to control your smart home with HomeKit and all your devices. It really couldn’t be any easier.
You don’t need to have an Amazon Alexa or Google Home to make it work. If you have an iPhone, or Apple Watch, that’s all you need to get started right now.
It goes even further because each person in your household can have their own account and can control their own devices. Or if you have additional homes they all can be controlled from one place.
This is great for family members or roommates or anyone who you want to give access to that lives with you or is visiting.
But it doesn’t stop there. You also have the ability to create Scenes.
A scene is an automation that does one or more things when you tell it to. For instance I have a scene set up as an alarm clock that runs every weekday morning at 5:30. This scene has a gentle alarm, opens my window shade, and slowly brightens the bedroom light to gently wake me up.
Scenes can be controlled automatically by time, or by voice command, or even buy a series of actions like your cell phone coming into range as you drive home.
HomeKit is designed with security and privacy as a main component. With HomeKit all the information is end to end encrypted and sent only between your Apple devices and smart home devices that are being controlled. No server somewhere in a foreign country will ever have this data.
The data never ever touches the cloud. This means it is much less likely to go down or have a blackout. Your data is encrypted, private, and stored only on your local devices. Even Apple can’t control your lights or look at your cameras.
When you buy a device to control something in your home will it be a lock or light camera or garage door opener, HomeKit can access it immediately. But only when your iPhone and that device are on the same Wi-Fi network. In order to access that Device from anywhere in the world you’ll need to have a hub.
HomeKit works right out of the box very easily. But for extended use a hub is the way to go. This way you can control everything even if you are at dinner down the street or on vacation halfway around the world.
A HomeKit hub is a device that is always on and always connected to your Wi-Fi. You probably already have one of these things without even knowing it.
- Apple TV
- HomePod mini
Currently the most affordable HomeKit hub available is the HomePod mini.
The Apple TV or iPad may need to have additional configurations to be set up to be used as a HomePod hub but it’s easy and there’s a different article on the site to help you with that process.
The HomePod mini is ready to go as a HomeKit hub right out of the box.
Types of HomeKit Devices
Now that you have a general idea of how HomeKit works, the next thing to do is to get a device!
New devices are being made every day. There’s no way I can keep up with everything on this website. Instead you can find a complete list on Apple’s website of all the different kinds of Homekit devices.
Here are some categories of devices available for Homekit
- Air Conditioners
- Air Purifiers
- Garage Doors
Let me tell you a funny story of how I got started with home automation.
We have a two-story house and at the time our son was three years old. He would play in his room. But then, when he got hungry or just wanted to come downstairs he would always leave the light on. I would have to stop what I was doing and run up the stairs to turn the light off, then come back down. At first I would do this all the time but then it got old. So instead, I got smart and installed a Lutron Caseta light switch, replacing the standard builder grade switch that was in his room.
In case you don’t know a Caseta switch is HomeKit enabled. It replaces the switch on the wall, and needs to be hard wired in.
Now I could control his light right from my phone, never having to run up the stairs again.
Of course that was just the very first thing I installed – for a complete list of all the different HomeKit Automation devices in my house, you can visit this page.
And be sure to check out the post where I explain why I prefer to change the actual switch in the room as opposed to just changing the lightbulbs for my home automation strategy.
Bridge devices for HomeKit
Do you remember how I said that Homekit is the ecosystem for Apple’s Home Automation Products? Well, other manufacturers have their own ecosystems. For instance Phillips Hue, which makes amazing lights uses an ecosystem called Zigbee. Another popular Home automation is Z-wave. Homekit Can’t talk to Zigbee, or Z-wave products without a translator, and that is called a Bridge.
A bridge device usually connects to your internet router, and stays on all the time, working in the background to do what you tell it to.
Not all products need a bridge. Only the ones that use a different language do. While it could be considered best practice to only use the Homekit Ecosystem, sometimes there are products from another system that you want to use. With a bridge you can.
I also should add that you only need one bridge for each ecosystem. You could have 14 different Phillips Hue lights, but only need one bridge to control them all.
Bluetooth Devices for HomeKit
Bluetooth is a wireless way for different electronic devices to talk to each other. It uses a wavelength to transmit data short distances. between things. In addition to using WiFi to communicate, Apple HomeKit also uses Bluetooth to make set-up easy and control devices.
One way I have seen Bluetooth work with Homekit was when I purchased my first Apple TV.
I had already set up HomeKit to control the light in my Kids’ bedroom. I could ask Siri to turn it on and off, or I could control it right from my iPhone.
When I was connecting my new Apple TV, one part of the set-up asked me to Choose a room where my Apple TV was and to automatically add it to the Home App on my iOS device. When I agreed, it told me to bring my iPhone near to the Apple TV and that’s when I figured it used Bluetooth to transfer data between the devices quickly and seamlessly. Because after that step, the Apple TV knew all my HomeKit preferences and settings. I didn’t have to do a thing.
Now when I change something on my HomeKit, all my devices get updated automatically.
I also know that some devices use Bluetooth instead of Wifi to communicate, and that newer HomeKit devices can extend the range and repeat the signals between devices.
WiFi Devices for HomeKit
WiFi Devices for HomeKit are a bit more reliable than Bluetooth devices and they work faster too. The majority of accessories for your home automation will be WiFi.
One mistake that I made early on was using the wrong Bluetooth network in my house. I have both 2G and 5G Wi-Fi networks. The 5G is much faster but a shorter range. The 2G has a longer range but isn’t quite as fast. I’ve always had my MacBook connected to 5G for work and streaming however I set up my home at work on the 2G network. I had a hard time at one point figuring out why my laptop couldn’t connect to any home devices until I got that sorted out. All I had to do to fix it was change my Wi-Fi from five to G and it was all set.
Some thing else to be careful of is having so many devices on your Wi-Fi and it starts to clog the network a little bit. Make sure you have a good strong mesh net work throughout your house and you shouldn’t have a problem..
Thread Devices for HomeKit
The latest technology for connecting home automation is thread devices. Currently the only Apple product support threaded devices is the new HomePod mini.
The benefit of threaded devices for automation is that they all connect to each other. This is different than a Wi-Fi net work because with Wi-Fi each device connects to the Wi-Fi with a threaded Netwerk they all connect to each other and they all connect to Wi-Fi so it’s a little bit more reliable and faster overall. I expect this to be the standard going forward for Apple and HomeKit, and I’m pretty excited about it.
Using the Home App on your iPhone for HomeKit
Now that we have a pretty good overview of the different kinds of devices and how HomeKit works let’s take a quick look how you can use the Home app on your phone to control some devices of your own.
every new iPhone comes preinstalled with the Home app. When you tap on it it will open a new screen where you can:
- Add Devices and Accessories
- Create Scenes
- Add rooms
- Make Automations
- Add users
he next section but only have a quick overview of each of these different actions. Be sure to visit the links when they are added for an in-depth how to on each of these different features.
Adding a New Device or Accessory in the Home App
It’s super easy to add a new device or accessory on the Home app on your iPhone.
First find the Home icon. That’s the orange house on a white background.
Tap on that and I’ll first take you to your HOME screen.
In the top right corner there’s a little plus + button. Tap that and a menu will appear will ask you if you want to add an accessory, a scene, and automation, a room, or people.
Since we are just looking to add an accessory we all select the first one – add accssory. Immediately the screen will change. You will be asked to scan the barcode of the accessory.
When open up your new device or accessory and you will see a little QR code with a picture of a HomeKit house & eight numbers on.
Hold your phone so that QR code is in the frame, and it will automatically scan it.
Next click on add to home and that’s it! You’ve just added your first accessory or device and now you’re ready to configure it.
Configuring your new HomeKit Device
Each accessory or device will have its own set of controls that you can manage to get it to do what you want. Since there are literally hundreds of different devices and accessories I can’t go over all of them in this article.
instead remember the HomeKit is easy to use so if you make a mistake you can simply delete the device and rescan it to start over in the worst case.
have some fun rename it play with the settings like I said you can’t really break it so everything will be OK. This is the best part if you asked me.
The Home and Rooms Tabs in the Home App
On the bottom part of the screen in the home program are for little icons. We’re gonna focus on the first to the home and rooms tabs.
the homes and rooms tab do essentially the same thing. The only difference is that the home tab will have all of your devices and accessories and scenes where the room tab will only have the devices and scenes that are assigned to it.
I like to try to keep things organized by room, to make it easy to remember what is what and where everything is located. Once you start to get more than a few of the same devices, it can become confusing, so I just say what room it is in, and it is all sorted out.
To create a new room all you have to do is go back to the top right corner and click the little plus button. this time select add room.
Now a new window will appear we were able to give the room a name change the background to either a pre-made apple background image or a photo of your choice. From now on this new room will appear as a choice when you add devices or make scenes.
Create a Scene in the Home App
After you have a few different devices you can create a scene. Scenes can be in one room or multiple or across multiple rooms.
This is one of the more fun things to do if you ask me.
You can create different scenes depending on the task you are doing. Some examples I have are:
- Cooking Scene (turns on kitchen lights, plays one of my favorite Apple Music playlists in the background
- Good Morning Scene (opens my shades, turns on the lights gradually, and has Siri announce the weather and what is on my calendar, and I also have the under counter lights in the kitchen come on since it is usually dark when I get up, and play NPR on my HomePod mini in the Breakfast room where I take my coffee and start the day.)
- Emergency scene (lock all doors, and turn on all outside lights, and select inside ones)
Automations for HomeKit
Automations are the next level after scenes. HomeKit automations don’t require a verbal command to start. Instead they start when you do something or something in the environment happens automatically.
A very simple automation requires a door switch and a light bulb. You can simply create an automation so when the door opens the light comes on. This works great for storage closets.
I have a more complicated automation that goes something like this:
- Come home at night (as I drive up, the garage door automatically opens, the driveway and garage lights come on, and the door to the house unlocks)
There are literally hundreds of different kinds of scenes and automations you can create: Go to bed, movie night, kids homework. This is where it gets fun!
The Power of HomeKit
Hopefully now you understand some of the basics about HomeKit.
By now you should understand how it works, why it is so secure, and how easy it is to add accessories scenes automations and devices.
For me it’s more than just a little fun things to link together.
I know that my house is safer and more secure. And I also know that I can work more efficiently knowing that many of the routine tasks I do over and over our automated so that I don’t have to worry about them.