Because my entire home is filled with HomeKit products, I often forget that some people are getting started with HomeKit and other smart home platforms, so I wanted to take some time this week to explain some basics of how to get started with HomeKit and what products should be your first purchases. Read on to learn more about HomeKit, and what items should be your first purchases in your Homekit starter kit.
HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.
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 provides home automation developers to centralize all home automation without needing separate apps to access each device’s 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 built-in Home app arrived on the iPhone’s Home screen, plus you can access a ton of functions from the Lock screen or anywhere on iOS from the new Control Center once you have a HomeKit accessory set up.
In 2018, Apple released the HomePod. It was a way to interact with your connected home devices through Siri using a standalone device. In 2020, Apple announced that tvOS 14 would gain access to the Home app. iOS 14 is also bringing improvement to the Home app UI.
HomeKit allows for secure pairing with devices and the ability to control individual devices from a single application. It also makes it possible to group several home automation devices into scenes that allow for more natural control of any automation device in specific situations. One of the coolest 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’s a platform in which 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 setup remotely. The current products that can be used as a HomeHub are a HomePod, Apple TV, or an iPad (would need to remain plugged into power).
I have multiple of these devices, and they work together in a primary/standby situation. If one product goes offline for any reason, one of these others will take over as the Home Hub. While a Home Hub isn’t required for HomeKit, it does dramatically improve the experience.
HomeKit Starter Kit
So what are the best products to get started with as you want to add HomeKit products? While I have almost every category in my house, I will run through a few different options based on affordability and ease of installation.
Switched outlets are the most basic of HomeKit products to get started with as your first HomeKit purchase. Switched outlets allow you to take anything that plugs into and convert it to HomeKit compatible. In my house, we use lamps instead of using overhead lights. I love the VOCOlinc smart plugs for this use case. What I like about the VOCOlinc smart outlet is how quickly I can set it up. You can go from unboxing to installing a final firmware update in less than five minutes.
If you want to change out some overhead lights with HomeKit enabled bulbs, I recommend the Philips Hue Starter Kit. I’ve picked up a number of these bulbs over the years, and I even have some of their outdoor flood lights. I use Hue bulbs with HomeKit automation to set them at a certain % of brightness in the morning as my motion sensors detect motion first thing in the morning.
No smart home product has impressed my wife more than the August Smart Lock. Since installing it late last year, it’s become something we’ve used every single day. I love how it will auto-unlock as we walk up to the door, and it’ll auto-lock after we leave. It was essential while I was having my hardwood floors refinished (water damage during a tornado in April) while we were on vacation. Every morning, I’d unlock the doors before the workers arrived, and I locked it after they left in the evening. Installation takes less than twenty minutes. I am using the 3rd generation August lock, but I’d pick the 4th generation if I were purchasing it today. It provides the same functionality but with a smaller form factor, negating the need for a bridge to access through the August app remotely.
A HomeKit enabled motion sensor allows you to create useful automations based on activity in the house. An example of this would be to turn on a living room lamp is motion is detected in the living room. Another will be to set a Hue bulb to 30% if motion is caught between the houses of 5:00 AM and 7:00 AM. If you have the Philips Hue bridge, I recommend the Hue motion sensor. If you don’t, then I would recommend either the Eve motion sensor or the Fibaro motion sensor
Final thoughts on HomeKit starter kit
These categories are what I recommend if you are just getting started with HomeKit. Adding automations to your lights, outlets, and locks provide a high return on investment and are all easy to install. Once you complete these projects, you might want to progress to HomeKit cameras and HomeKit thermostats
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