5 Things You Didn't Know Apple HomeKit Could Do

Cupertino, January 8, 2022

“Hey Siri” is a phrase we've all come to know, whether we use it in our daily lives or parody of voice assistants. Siri has some great features that we might not use on a daily basis, including controlling our smart home through HomeKit. HomeKit is Apple's version of their underlying smart home technology, similar to Google's Home and Assistant and Amazon's Alexa. While HomeKit may not have as many features or accessories as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, there are some great ways to use HomeKit that you may not be using right now. Before we get started, you should know that to use HomeKit, you need a home hub. Something that stays in your home and connects to Wi-Fi to control your accessories. According to Apple, this can only be an Apple TV, a Homepod or Homepod Mini, or an always-on iPad. John Velasco / Digital Trends Setting up scenes and automations Scenes in HomeKit allow you to control multiple accessories at once, all with the touch of a button or one sentence. For example, say you want to dim all your living room lighting to a certain brightness and color when you watch a movie. You can set up a Movie Night scene that will do just that. Think of scenes as a shortcut, a quick way to change many accessories at once. We talk a lot about automation here at Digital Trends, and that's just because they're so damn useful. Whether you need a sequence of events to happen at a specific time each day or you're performing one action, you want multiple things to follow; automation is how that works. In the Home app, automation is a little easier than in Alexa or Google Assistant, but it still has a variety of triggers and can change almost all the accessories in your home. Scenes have a special section on your Favorites page in the Home app, along with each room's page. In addition, automation has its app category at the bottom of the Home app. Using groups and zones As with scenes, groups allow you to change multiple accessories at once. Instead of selecting all the lamps in your bedroom individually and changing them to one color or brightness, you can place them in a group of Bedroom lamps. Then you can tell Siri to dim the bedroom lights to 50%, and all the lights will do that at once. Zones are basically groups, but for rooms, rather than accessories. For example, instead of grouping several lamps or fans, you can now group the living room and the kitchen as a Lower Zone. "Do Downstairs Lights" will turn off all the lights in both rooms. As a tip, you can use zones to alias a room. For example, if you use the terms Living Room and Family Room interchangeably and only set the Living Room in a family room zone, Siri will recognize both terms. Apple Share your home with others Many of us may have people we live with or just people who pass by often. One of the great features of HomeKit is sharing your home with others. By sharing, family, friends, partners, etc. can easily change the status of smart accessories without bothering you for a passcode or access. A one-time addition adds that user to your home and vice versa. A great addition to HomeKit Homes sharing is that the Home app can automatically change which Home is displayed based on geolocation. Using third-party apps A unique feature of HomeKit that I haven't seen much of in other smart home ecosystems is its fairly robust ability to use third-party apps. Some apps completely overtake the Home app so you don't have to use it anymore, and some apps complement the HomeKit experience. Apps like Home+ and Controller for HomeKit are total replacements of the Home app. They add feature requests or simple UI changes to provide the most personalized Home experience tailored to you. Like the essential Homepass app, other apps have unique features to help you get the most out of your home. For example, Homepages is a locker to store all HomeKit QR codes, so you don't have to physically hold the cards or boxes your accessories come in. Hoobs Pair with Third-Party Devices with HOOBS We're all familiar with the "Apple tax" phenomenon - the extra cost that seems to come with products made specifically for Apple devices. The fact is, there simply aren't that many HomeKit-specific accessories because of Apple's rigid practices and security compared to other smart home ecosystems. That's where HOOBS comes in. HOOBS, or Homebridge Out of the Box, is a system that allows your HomeKit home to connect to products not specifically made for it, such as Nest Thermostat or Echo Show. You can build your own HOOBS system with a Raspberry Pi or buy a pre-built kit online. Either way, by linking the hardware to your router and a web interface, you can connect third-party devices to your HomeKit home. The process is also relatively simple, although I would still entrust it to your tech relative and friends rather than the general public. Editor's Recommendations

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