HomeKit smart home guide

Apple released HomeKit in September 2014 with iOS 8. The HomeKit platform was announced at WWDC in June of 2014, the following year the first HomeKit-enabled products were released.  Since Apple released HomeKit smart home, they have made development strides with the launch of the “Home” app and with the HomeKit improvements brought in iOS 11, HomeKit has quickly become a leading contender in smart home control and automation.

If you want the guide to setting up HomeKit in your smart home and want to know how to use scenes, HomeKit triggers to make life easier then read this guide to HomeKit smart home setup.

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What is HomeKit

What is HomeKit

Apple and it communicates directly with connected accessories within the home, securely encrypts all data and even works remotely over iCloud remote access with a third-generation Apple TV or later when you are away from home. 

You can also use Siri voice commands with HomeKit to control your smart home accessories and if you are using a third generation Apple TV or above or the New HomePod from you can setup home automation and control any connected HomeKit enabled devices remotely when you are not at home

Must read review: Apple HomePod reviews are in

What do you need to run HomeKit

What do you need for HomeKit

  • iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 8.1 or later. I would recommend using iOS 11 to get the latest updates
  • Home App that comes installed with iOS, just in case you have removed it you can download it from the App Store.
  • At least one HomeKit-enabled accessory
  • Companion iOS app for each HomeKit-enabled accessory
  • Home Wi-Fi network (internet enabled for remote control)
  • Third generation Apple TV or newer for Home automation and remote control
  • Or a HomePod instead of a Apple TV

Essential reading: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review

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 HomeKit enabled smart home. One important thing to remember when setting up your smart home with HomeKit that the system is a hierarchy and delegations in that hierarchy and its simple to remember

  • Home – This is your home where you live which has all the HomeKit enabled kit.
  • 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 for instance 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.

So now you have been taken through the HomeKit hierarchy, this section will take you through how to pair HomeKit accessories, setting up scenes, names, automation and how to interact with your smart home via Siri and the Home app to control the HomeKit accessorises you have connected.

How to Pair HomeKit Accessories

HomeKit-enabled accessories have a setup code that is included on the product or box of the product. 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 can also use the Home app that comes with iOS to add accessories.How to pair HomeKit

HomeKit accessory Siri names to help control them

Once you have pair your first HomeKit accessory you then need to name it. Names are used to control an individual HomeKit device through Siri and are assigned to every HomeKit accessory. 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”

HomeKit naming devices

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. So for instance in my HomeKit Smart Home, I have the main living room lights simply named to “Living room 1” and “living room 2”.

Rooms and Zones to group HomeKit accessorises

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 of the devices assigned to that room. Like Siri Names, Room names need to be unique.

So an example of this is my living room in HomeKit

  • Living room bloom lamp
  • Living Room 1
  • Living room 2
  • Living room lamp

HomeKit room

I can still control each device with either the HomeKit app or I can use Siri, but If I wanted to say “Hey Siri” Turn off the lights in the living room” Siri would then turn off the lights

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, decking or a drive if you are using outdoor supported HomeKit devices. 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 simply a collection of multiple “Rooms” that represent a larger area of your home, ranging from “upstairs” and “downstairs” So you could have the Kitchen, hallway and living room assigned to downstairs and when you go upstairs to bed you could ask Siri “Turn off the downstairs lights” or if you have set up automation to turn on or off lights at a given time then you could add upstairs light to this, this is great for home security and giving people the impression people are in the home.

Scenes – group multiple smart accessories to create a scene

You can use HomeKit scenes for a variety of different things and even combine them with triggers for further automation. So an example of a scene may be called “romance” this scene setup in HomeKit would have a set of Philips Hue lights set 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.

Triggers – Smart home automation

HomeKit triggers

Triggers in HomeKit feature introduced in iOS 9 and was updated significantly in iOS11 to support multi-user support. So before iOS 11 was introduced you could set an automation trigger in HomeKit to turn off the lights when you left home and it would do this regardless if another person was still at home.

HomeKit takes home automation one step further by combing  “Scenes,” and “triggers which let 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 on the drive, inside your home, set the thermostat and unlock the front door without a key. 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, easy eh?

You can set triggers for specific times or for specific events. You may want all the lights in the house to start turning on at sunset, something that can be automated with a trigger. 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.

Event-based triggers allow you to set up scenarios where one HomeKit product triggers an effect in another HomeKit product. With a motion sensor like the Philips Hue motion sensor, a trigger can be set up to turn on the kitchen lights whenever the door opens.

Must read review: GoogleHome review

Controlling HomeKit with compatible apps and Siri voice

Controlling your smart home through HomeKit can be done via the Home app that is installed on iOS on devices like an iPhone, iPad and iPod. I personally use the app to control all of my HomeKit compatible smart home accessories and I only use the device manufacturer’s app if I need to do a firmware upgrade or change a setting that HomeKit does not have access too.

Whilst Apple’s own Home app for HomeKit works really well, I have tested out another app called by the same name Home. This was app was out before Apple’s own Home app and it works really well.

Home – Smart Home Automation as its more commonly known on the App Store is a great app. If you run the Home app on the iPad then its nicely laid out with all the different options like rooms, groups, scenes and if you are using an Apple TV with HomeKit, home Automation options.

HomeKit appThe app is not cheap at £14.99, but it does do a great job and in some areas, it performs better than Apple’s own Home app.

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.

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Smart Home compatible HomeKit accessories

HomeKit would not be the centre of the smart home without all the different manufactories that produce the various HomeKit accessories for our homes. 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.

Until recently Apple required the HomeKit accessories makers to go through the MFI programme and install a secure chip to enable them to work. However, as of September 2017 this is no longer required and its software now.

Below is a list of the various HomeKit enabled accessorises broken down into categories. Some of these I personally use in my HomeKit enabled Smart home and some I have researched.

If you want a complete guide to HomeKit accessorises then check this guide out which goes into further detail

HomeKit compatible speakers

How to get Spotify on HomePod

Apple HomePod – Apples smart speaker has finally shipped and how this will play a role in the smart home is yet to be seen, but it is exciting to explore the possibilities or the HomePod HomeKit support.

Checkout on HomePod on Apple

HomeKit compatible thermostat

Tado-homekit-deviceTado thermostat – Tado have been around for some time now and offer home heating control via a thermostat and radiator control all using HomeKit and Siri.

Checkout on Tado on Amazon

HomeKit compatible lights

Philips-Hue-Homekit-devicePhilips Hue – I use Philips Hue with HomeKit in my home and love the various options and control I can get

Checkout on Philips Hue on Amazon

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HomeKit Compatible Sensors

Eve-Door-window-homeKitEve door sensor – This is a door sensor that can be connected to HomeKit to alert you if a window or is opened. If paired with a trigger it could be set to turn the lights on and start recording from a camera.

Checkout on Eve on Amazon

HomeKit compatible energy devices

Eve-energy-homekit-smarthome

Eve Energy – Eve Energy is a plug that goes into your power socket. It will allow you to turn the connected device and give you energy consumption

Checkout on Eve on Amazon

HomeKit compatible cameras

Netamo presence HomeKit deviceNetamo PRESENCE – is an outdoor HomeKit connected camera for home security.

Checkout on NETAMO on Amazon

HomeKit compatible security devices

Netamo Welcome HomeKit deviceNetatmo WELCOME – Indoor enabled homeKit security camera that alerts you to someone in the home

Checkout on NETAMO on Amazon

If you have found this HomeKit smart home guide useful or if you have a question then leave a comment below

I am Jon R and the editor of Active JR that covers wearables, fitness tech and smart home. I have a huge passion for technology having worked in the sector for over 18 years in a variety of roles and I like combining this with fitness.My reviews and information will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.You can contact Jon on Twitter @ActiveJR1

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