HomeKit is what Apple calls its home automation technology. Yeah, I wish it was called something friendlier, like Apple Home, but if you see the HomeKit logo on something, it means it'll work with Siri and the iOS Home app to basically set up and control all your connected accessories. I've been wanting to go all-in on HomeKit for a long time so, when I moved and set up the new studio, it was the perfect excuse.
Hit play on the video to watch everything in action.
HomePod + Apple TV
I typically control everything with HomePod (opens in new tab). It's "ambient computing" — you speak, it acts. It also works as a HomeKit Hub, extending the range at which Bluetooth accessories can be controlled. Apple TV (opens in new tab) doesn't have far-field voice control but it does work as a hub. I have mine close together because I don't need to cover a lot of distance. If you do, consider putting them further apart.
August Smart Lock
My accessories start with August Smart Lock (opens in new tab). That means I can lock or unlock my door — unlock requires authentication for security reasons — from anywhere, which is super useful if family, friends, or even maintenance shows up and you're not home. I also have it set up so that, if I leave the neighborhood and then come back, as soon as it detects me next to the door, it just opens. No keys, no voice, no taps, no nothing. It's terrific, especially when you're carrying things.
August Smart Lock (opens in new tab)
Inside I have Philips Hue lights. All the Hue lights. They're the first connected accessories I ever got and probably the best ways for anyone to get started. You can get the Philips Hue Starter Set in white or color (opens in new tab) — but color is where it's at. Once you set them up, you can control their intensity, color, timing — pretty much everything about them.
I mostly control them with Siri on HomePod but, since visitors aren't used to them, I have a few Hue Dimmer Switches (opens in new tab) scattered around as well. I also have Hue Motion Detectors (opens in new tab) for the lights in the bathroom and storage rooms. They even auto-dim and shift yellow at night. Sublime.
Blooms (opens in new tab) are behind the TV to give it some depth. LightStrips (opens in new tab) are behind the sofa — which I still have to mount on boards so they stay straight and in place — to create ambiance.
I have a couple of Hue Go (opens in new tab) that I move around as needed, especially for photos and videos. I also have a ceiling mounted Hue Pendant (opens in new tab) in the dining room, and a Hue Ambiance (opens in new tab) in the kitchen.
Generally, they work great. HomeKit can handle some complex commands, like turn on all the lights except for the dining room. It can't handle multipart commands, though. You can work around it in some cases, like turn the lights on and make them purple doesn't work, but turn the lights purple does effectively the same thing. Still, it's something Apple needs add and soon.
Philips Hue (opens in new tab)
Not every device is smart. But, when you get something like the iDevices Plug (opens in new tab), you can make many devices smart. Set one up, stick it in an outlet, plug something dumb into it, and it becomes smart. At least smart enough that you can turn it on and off like a real connected accessory.
An old fan, an old space heater, or something new — the base stations for your VR setup. It's not perfect, but it's a great way to round everything else out.
iDevices Plug (opens in new tab)
Thermostat and Fan in progress
I don't have central heating, I have electric baseboards. That's not unusual for Montreal but it means I can't use an Ecobee smart thermostat. Instead, I'm going to try out Mysa. You need one per baseboard, which is a drag, but it's still better than manual. As soon as I have them installed, I'll let you know how they work.
I also have a Hunter Fan (opens in new tab) in the bedroom which is installed… but not quite working yet. I blame Apple originally shunting HomeKit off to third-party apps before finally making the Home app. It means you're stuck with a bunch of inconsistent, often substandard experiences. I get every manufacturer wants to own their own brand and little piece of digital domain, but Apple is typically great putting the user first. Hopefully, going forward, it'll be all about the Home app.
Lutron Serena Shades
My latest addition is Lutron Serena Shades. They're not cheap but they are amazing. Like connected lights, you can set connected blinds up to work automagically, or you can just tell them to go up or down whenever you want. Best of all, with scenes, you say something like Movie Time and have the blackout blinds go down and the TV lights go up. I just wish Apple TV responded to HomeKit as well.
Scenes, Zones, and Automation
In addition to Scenes, which let you control multiple accessories at the same time, there are Zones, which let you group multiple rooms together. So, for example, you can turn off all the lights on the second floor all at once. Zones are almost impossible to discover in the current Home app, but once you do, they're super convenient.
Automations let you set up accessories to control themselves. I haven't even begun to explore them yet, but they're next on my list. Motion sensor detects you get out of bed, the blinds in the living room open, and the smart plug on the kettle starts boiling the water for coffee. And can we get on the HomeKit bacon crisper next, please?
Security and privacy
What I like best is Apple's privacy and security model. Not only does HomeKit use Touch ID and Face ID to keep your doors and garages safe, Apple drove the industry to secure Wi-Fi and end-to-end encryption to keep your network and personal data safe. Because no one wants their home hacked or their video or audio stolen.
Apple still needs to level up Siri and hook in Apple TV and HomePod not just as hubs but as accessories, but when you combine rooms with scenes, zones, and automation, HomeKit really is the most powerful, flexible system in the game right now.
And with things like smart showers, sinks, toilets, air conditioners, and more starting to hit the market, the sky's the limit.
So, that's what I'm doing with HomeKit right now. And it feels like I'm living in the future but still only scratching the surface. If you're into home automation, let me know what you're using, how you're using it, and what you most want next. If you're not, let me know why not!
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.
I too am having much fun with HomeKit.
I have about 80% of the lights in the house on Lutron Caseta switches. I am running the Caseta Pro hub to support Triathlon shades.
Philips Hue for a couple of light strips.
Schlage locks. I like them over the August locks.
Hunter ceiling fan
August doorbell cam. Still waiting and waiting and waiting for them to keep their HomeKit compatability promise.
iDevices outdoor switch
MyQ Garage HomeKit bridge
Latest addition is a Honeywell Lyric security system. Having that on HomeKit is an absolute blast. There is so much that can be done with that. I know the status of every door and window in the house. Next up for me is cameras. Still researching that.
I agree with the Lutron Caseta hub choice - for years it's been the best way to control lights in your HomeKit house. I blanched when I saw the price of smart lightbulbs - despite their nice color capabilities - and found that having a linux system in each lightbulb excessively expensive and complicated. With the Lutron Caseta system, you have a single hub which controls dimming light switches and on/off switch modules, but you can use existing fixtures and wall switch electrical boxes and much lower-priced dimming LED light bulbs. (I don't care how long manufacturers claim LED bulbs last - they're being waaaayyyy too optimistic.) The up-front cost is much higher for the Caseta system, but the down-the-road costs will most assuredly be much lower.
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