Six Surprising Features of Apple HomeKit That You Were Unaware Of

Cupertino, December 7, 2023

“Hey, Siri” is a phrase we've all come to know, whether we use it in our daily lives or through a parody of voice assistants. Siri has some great features that we might not use every day, including controlling our smart home via HomeKit. HomeKit is Apple's version of the 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 might 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

Set up scenes and automations Scenes in HomeKit let you control multiple accessories at once, all with the touch of a button or a phrase. For example, let's say you want all the lights in your living room to dim to a specific brightness and color when you watch a movie. You can set up a Movie Night scene that does just that. Think of scenes as a shortcut, a quick way to swap out many accessories at once. We talk about automations a lot here at Digital Trends, and that's only because they're so useful. Whether you need a series of events at a certain time every day or when you perform one action, you want different things to follow; automation is how that works. In the Home app, automation is a little simpler than in Alexa or Google Assistant, but it still has a variety of triggers and can change virtually all accessories in your home. Scenes have a dedicated section on your favorites page in the Home app, along with each room's page. Additionally, Automation has an app category at the bottom of the Home app.

Using 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 one color or brightness, place them in a group of Bedroom Lights. Then you can tell Siri to turn the bedroom lighting to 50%, and all the lights will do that at once. Zones are basically groups, but for rooms, instead of accessories. For example, instead of grouping several lamps or fans, you can now group the living room and the kitchen as a Lower Zone. 'Turn off the downstairs lights' turns off all lights in both rooms. As a tip, you can use zones to give an alias to a room. For example, if you use the terms Living Room and Family Room interchangeably and set only 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 come over often. One of the great features of HomeKit is sharing your home with others. Sharing allows family, friends, partners, etc. to 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 Home sharing is that the Home app can automatically change which Home is shown based on geolocation. Use third-party apps One unique feature of HomeKit that I haven't seen much of in other smart home ecosystems is the 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 for Home apps. They add feature requests or simple UI changes to provide the most personalized and customized Home experience. 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 where you can store all the HomeKit QR codes, so you don't have to physically hold the cards or boxes your accessories come in. Hoobs

Linking to Third Party Devices with HOOBS We're all familiar with the 'Apple Tax' phenomenon – the extra price seems to come with products made specifically for Apple devices. The fact is that there simply aren't that many HomeKit-specific accessories out there due to Apple's rigid practices and security compared to other smart home ecosystems. That's where HOOBS comes into the picture. HOOBS, or Homebridge Out of the Box, is a system that allows your HomeKit home to connect to products that aren't specifically made for it, like Nest Thermostat or Echo Show. You can build your own HOOBS system with a Raspberry Pi or purchase a pre-built kit online. Either way, by pairing the hardware with 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. Control the action with Apple Watch The screen may be a bit small, but Apple Watch gives you access to HomeKit right from your wrist. From watching video streams and sending intercom messages to accessing your smart lights and smart locks, you can access virtually all your smart home gadgets through the companion Home app for Apple Watch. After loading the Home app onto your watch for the first time, you'll go through a short setup process to get you synced across all your devices. Once that's out of the way, you can start browsing through all your accessories, scenes, and any related settings. Make sure you give the Home app on your wrist a try the next time you leave your smartphone in another room. Editorial recommendations

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