Getting Started with Apple’s Homekit

If you’re tired of configuring your home appliances using several different apps, Apple’s HomeKit is promising to make your life easier. HomeKit lets home owners centralize smart devices and even gives people the ability to use voice commands through Siri. For AppleTV consumers, HomeKit can use AppleTV as a command hub for controlling all HomeKit-enabled devices – no more separate apps for each appliance, no more scrolling through each device app separately, and now one Siri command sets all your home preferences in what Apple calls “scenes.”

How Do You Get Started?

If you already have smart devices in your home, you should first check if they are HomeKit-enabled. During its pre-release, Apple signed deals with manufacturers such as iHome, Haier, Withings, Philips, iDevices, Belkin, Honeywell, and Kwikset. If you purchased product from any of these manufacturers, it could have HomeKit enabled. You know if your device is enabled if it comes with an 8-digit pairing code. This pairing code is used to connect Apple’s app with the smart device using BlueTooth. The first official HomeKit accessories were announced the first week of June. They include the Insteon Hub, Lutron Caseta Lighting, Elgato’s Eve, the Ecobee3 Thermostat, and the iSP5 SmartPlug. These devices, of course, are just the beginning.

You also need the Home app that you can download from the Apple Store. Once you have Home installed, you’ll need to pair your iPhone or iPad with your smart devices.

HomeKit is already supported with AppleTV iOS8.1 and 7.0.1. With AppleTV support, you can control your entire home’s appliances, fixtures, and devices from anywhere. AppleTV acts as a remote command center when you’re away from home. However, you must wait until iOS9 to use Homekit on your iPhone or iPad with remote command via AppleTV (AppleTV not required) or iCloud.

Another configuration is that each fixture in your house needs a name. For instance, if your light sensors and A/C thermostat are HomeKit enabled, you need to give each of these their own name. Each device must have a unique name, so people with two homes should keep this in mind when determining a naming scheme. Apple makes it a bit convenient, though, with its grouping option. This means you can organize your first home and your second home’s appliances within the HomeKit app.

Another handy part of grouping is the ability to control several appliances at once, and Siri can manage it for you. These groups are called “scenes.” For instance, you could dim the lights and turn on your alarm clock using one command from Siri. The alarm clock and light sensors would be grouped into scenes. Say “Go to bed” to Siri, and she sends the commands to your configured scenes. You can use Siri to control things in your home at anytime but when you are away from home Siri can only help you control your things if you have AppleTV.

What about Security?

For those of you who are concerned about a stranger opening your garage door, Apple promises that its pairing protocol and framework only allow the owner to work HomeKit-enabled fixtures. This is where the pairing code mentioned earlier is used. Apple has been working with home automation leaders to ensure that security is on the priority list before its launch date in the fall.

If you want to get started, you’ll have to wait until its launch. The Home app is free, but of course the appliances and smart devices cost more money than standard equipment. This won’t stop the purest of Apple fans from getting started with HomeKit.