5 Things You Didn't Know Apple HomeKit Can Do

Cupertino, December 24, 2021

"Hey, Siri" is an expression we've all come to know, whether we use it in our daily lives or are a parody of vocal assistants. Siri has some great features that we may not use every day, one of which is controlling our smart home through HomeKit.

HomeKit is Apple's version of basic 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 use right now.

Before you get started, you know that in order to use HomeKit, you will need a home hub. Something that will stay in your home and connect to wifi to control your accessories. According to Apple, they can only be an Apple TV, a Homepod or Homepod Mini or an iPad always on.

John Velasco / Digital Trends

Set up scenes and automation

HomeKit scenes allow you to control multiple accessories at once, all at the touch of a button or phrase. For example, suppose you want all the lights in your living room to dim to a certain brightness and color when you watch a movie. You can set one 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 useful. Whether you need a sequence of events to happen every day at a certain time or when you do a single action, you want to follow several things; automation is how it works. In Home, automation is a little easier than in Alexa or Google Assistant, but it still has a variety of triggers and can change almost any accessory in your home.

Scenes have a dedicated section on your favorite page in the Home app, along with each room's page. In addition, automation has the application category at the bottom of the Home application.

Use groups and zones

Similar to scenes, groups allow you to change multiple accessories at once. Instead of individually selecting all the lights in your bedroom and changing them to a single color or brightness, put them in a Bedroom lights group. Then you can tell Siri to reduce the lights in the bedroom to 50% and all the lights will do it at once.

The areas are basically groups, but for rooms, instead of accessories. For example, instead of grouping multiple lights or fans together, you can now group the living room and kitchen as Down area. "Turn off the lights on the ground floor" will turn off all lights in both rooms. As a tip, you can use areas to alias a room. For example, if you use the terms Living Room and Family Room interchangeably, set only the Living Room in a Family Room area, Siri will recognize both terms.

MacBook showing a HomeKit Home sharing invitation.
Apple

Share your home with others

Many of us may have people we live with or just people who come often. One of the great features of HomeKit is that you share your home with others. Sharing allows family, friends, partners, etc. Easily change the status of smart accessories without having to worry about password or access. A unique addition will add 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.

Use third-party applications

A unique feature of HomeKit that I haven't seen much with other smart home ecosystems is its fairly robust ability to use third-party applications. Some applications completely override the Home application, so you no longer need to use it, and some applications complement the HomeKit experience.

Apps like Home + and Controller for HomeKit are total home replacements. They add either feature requests or simple changes to the user interface to provide the most personal Home experience for you. Like the essential Homepass app, other apps have unique features to help you get the most out of your home. Home pages, for example, are a closet to store all your HomeKit QR codes, so you don't have to physically keep the cards or boxes that come with your accessories.

A group of HOBS Apple devices.
Hoobs

Associate third-party devices with HOOBS

We all know the "Apple Tax" phenomenon - the extra price seems to come with products designed specifically for Apple devices. The fact is that there aren't that many HomeKit-specific accessories because of Apple's rigid practices and security compared to other smart home ecosystems. This is where HOOBS comes in.

HOOBS, or Homebridge Out of the Box, is a system that allows your HomeKit to connect with products that were not specifically designed for it, such as Nest Thermostat or Echo Show. You can build your own HOOBS system with a Raspberry Pi or you can buy a prefabricated kit online. However, pairing your hardware with your router and web interface allows you to connect third-party devices to your HomeKit. The process is also relatively straightforward, although I would still trust it to your family and friends rather than the general public.

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