Home automation is a big topic right now. After all, who doesn’t want to control lighting and thermostat temperatures from a cell phone? Apple joined the automation bandwagon by producing the Apple HomeKit, a program that allows you to use any iOS device to control many features within your home. Here’s an overview of the product and one user’s experience so far.
What is it?
HomeKit is not an app, but a smart home platform that allows homeowners to control devices through an iPhone or other apple device. It ties all home automation products together on a single device.
Here’s a very extensive video of what HomeKit is:
How it works
To start, you’ll need an iOS device to use the HomeKit. An iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with iOS 8.1 or more recent software will suffice. The kit will enable users to control any accessories in your home, including lights, locks, thermostats and more.
The catch? The technology in your home must be compatible with HomeKit accessories. If you want home automation via Apple’s product, you’ll have to purchase accessories that are HomeKit-enabled, which can result in high start-up costs before you can begin to enjoy home automation. Brands and technology that are compatible will have this branding on the package:
Apple has released a list of brand that are supported by the HomeKit:
- Ecobee. This company produces a line of smart WiFi thermostats with remote sensors.
- Elgato. Want to control your windows and doors with your phone? You can do so with the HomeKit and a variety of Elgato products.
- iHome. The iHome control smart plug enables users to connect lamps, fans or humidifiers and even control them when you’re not at home. After all, isn’t that the point of having home automation on your phone?
- Lutron. This company produces a line of lighting kits for lamps, the wall and ceiling.
Here’s an overview of how much a single product from each home automation line will cost you. But remember: this is just an estimate!
|Ecobee smart thermostat||$250|
|Elgato Eve door and window sensor||$40|
|iHome smart plug||$40 each|
|Lutron Caseta dimmers||$72 per dimmer|
No doubt other companies will join on the bandwagon.
Use Siri to control your accessories
Once you’ve retrofitted your home with HomeKit-friendly automation products, you’re ready to live a less stressful and relaxed lifestyle by speaking into your phone to control your home. The HomeKit relies on Siri to make those commands happen. If you want to lower the temperature in your home, simply tell Siri to set the temperature to a different number, or ask Siri to turn off the lights when you’re leaving a room. It’s that simple.
Get your home ready before you get home
One of the benefits of having the HomeKit synched with your home is the ability to remotely control your home accessories. For example, you can lower the temperature in your home while you’re away to conserve energy. Using the Siri command, adjust the temperature before you get home so you’re walking into a comfortable, well-adjusted atmosphere.
But there’s another catch: the HomeKit currently requires an Apple TV to control automation remotely. It acts like a bridge between your iOS device, your home and its WiFi connection. But before you rush out to buy the new piece of hardware (among the other home automation products fit for HomeKit), you may want to consider waiting until the fall. That’s when Apple’s new technology will enable remote access with iCloud.
But what if my iOS device is lost or stolen?
The great aspect of the HomeKit is the built-in security feature. Most of the voice controls require for you to unlock your device. Here are other precautions to take in the event of a lost or stolen device:
- Use Find My iPhone to turn on Lost Mode and/or erase the device and its contents;
- Change your Apple ID and password to prevent anyone from using the HomeKit services.
Does it actually work?
The HomeKit project was announced at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last year, but with the growing number of products on the market that are compatible with HomeKit, the opportunity to try it out has arrived.
Tech expert Geoffrey A. Fowler shared his experience using the program with the Wall Street Journal.
“Unfortunately, Siri just isn’t very reliable,” he writes. “I’m running the first HomeKit hardware in my house, with hubs by Insteon and Lutron Caséta, but when Siri gets involved, I sometimes want to throw the iPhone out the window. She should know all my HomeKit-connected devices by name, but when I say, ‘Turn on the air filter,’ Siri presents a list of stores where I might buy one.”
Fowler expresses his frustration with Siri because it’s supposed to make home automation easier, not difficult.
“Apple doesn’t even provide a list of Siri-approved phrasing, so you’re left shouting at your phone like a weirdo,” he writes.
Here’s Fowler’s review of the HomeKit and its communication problems:
It looks like Fowler isn’t the only user experiencing difficulty with the program. HomeKit has its own Twitter account and retweeted this from a user:
If you’ve jumped on the home automation bandwagon and are currently setting up your home products with the HomeKit, then you may want to check out this lingo guide:
Are you interested in living in a fully-automated home? Call our Home automation specialists to get started. They’ll help you find the right products and offer expert advice.