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HomeKit Weekly: New to HomeKit? Here’s what should be in your HomeKit starter kit

Because my whole house is full of HomeKit products, I often forget that some people start with HomeKit and other smart home platforms, so I wanted to take some time this week to explain some basics on how to get started. HomeKit and what products should be your first purchases. Read on to learn more about the HomeKit and what items should be your first purchases from the Homekit Starter Kit.

Weekly HomeKit is a series focused on smart home accessories, tips and tricks for automation and everything related to the smart frame for Apple.


What is HomeKit?

Apple announced HomeKit in June 2014. It allows all home automation accessories / devices to work together in harmony with iOS. The API allows home automation developers to centralize all home automation without the need for separate applications to access device-specific features. These devices include locks, lights, cameras, doors, thermostats, plugs, switches and more.

In 2016, Apple introduced a new Home app that came with a modern look, relatively easy-to-use controls and access to accessories and scenes from anywhere on iOS 10. Apple’s new integrated Home app arrived on the iPhone’s home screen in Plus, you can access a ton of features on the Lock screen or anywhere on iOS in the new control center once you’ve set up a HomeKit accessory.

In 2018, Apple launched the HomePod. It was a way to interact with home devices connected via Siri using a standalone device. In 2020, Apple announced that tvOS 14 will have access to the Home application. iOS 14 also brings improvements to the UI for the Home app.

HomeKit allows secure pairing with devices and the ability to control individual devices in a single application. It also makes it possible to group several home automation devices into scenes that allow more natural control of any automation device in specific situations. One of the strongest features of HomeKit is the ability to control any home automation accessory with Siri based on specific commands or scenes previously configured with these devices.

HomeKit is similar to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa in that it is a platform that you need to control all of your smart home devices.

What is a Home Hub?

A Home Hub is a product that allows you to access your HomeKit configuration remotely. Current products that can be used as HomeHub are a HomePod, Apple TV or an iPad (should stay connected to power).

I have several of these devices and they work together in a primary / waiting situation. If a product disconnects for any reason, one of them will take over the Home Hub function. While a Home Hub is not necessary for HomeKit, it dramatically improves the experience.

HomeKit Starter Kit

So what are the best products to start with when you want to add HomeKit products? While I have almost all categories in my house, I will go through a few different options based on accessibility and ease of installation.

Switched sockets

HomeKit Weekly: New to HomeKit? Here's what should be in your HomeKit starter kit

Switched points of sale are the most basic HomeKit products to start with your first HomeKit purchase. Switched sockets allow you to take whatever is connected and convert it to a compatible HomeKit. In my house, we use lamps instead of headlights. I like the VOCOlinc smart plugs for this use case. What I like about the VOCOlinc smart socket is how fast I can set it up. You can go from unboxing to installing a final firmware update in less than five minutes.

Lamps

HomeKit Weekly: New to HomeKit? Here's what should be in your HomeKit starter kit

If you want to replace some electric headlights with HomeKit activated bulbs, I recommend Philips Hue Starter Kit. I have erected a number of light bulbs over the years and I even have some of their outdoor flood lights. I use Hue bulbs with HomeKit automation to set them to a certain% brightness in the morning, because the motion sensors detect the movement first in the morning.

Smart locks

HomeKit Weekly: New to HomeKit? Here's what should be in your HomeKit starter kit

No smart home product has impressed my wife more than August Smart Lock. Ever since I installed it at the end of last year, it has become something I use every day. I like how it will unlock automatically as we walk to the door and will lock automatically after departure. It was essential while my hardwood floors were honed (water damage during an April tornado) while I was on vacation. Every morning, I unlock the doors before the workers come and close it after they leave in the evening. The installation takes less than twenty minutes. I use the August 3rd generation lock, but I would choose the 4th generation if I buy it today. It offers the same functionality, but with a smaller form factor, denying the need for a bridge to access through the August application remotely.

Movement sensors

HomeKit Weekly: New to HomeKit? Here's what should be in your HomeKit starter kit

A HomeKit-enabled motion sensor lets you create useful automations based on homework. An example of this would be to turn on a living room lamp, motion is detected in the living room. Another will be to set a Hue bulb to 30% if there is movement between the houses from 5:00 AM to 7:00 AM. If you have a Philips Hue bridge, I recommend the Hue motion sensor. If not, then I would recommend either the Eve motion sensor or the Fibaro motion sensor

Final thoughts on the HomeKit starter kit

These categories are the ones I recommend if you are just starting out with HomeKit. Adding automation to your lights, sockets and locks gives you a high return on investment and is easy to install. After you complete these projects, you may want to switch to HomeKit cameras and HomeKit thermostats.

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