How to DIY your Smart Home using HomeKit [101]

“Smart Home” is a concept that not many could wrap their heads around a few decades ago. 

However, over the past few years, the concept has become pretty common, and the gadgets involved are quite accessible. 

The idea of making a house or a building intelligent such that it can adapt to routines, weather, and other requirements is fascinating. 

With the help of a smart home, you can center yourself on tasks that actually matter and promote productivity instead of spending time doing mundane repetitive tasks. 

Over the years, due to the immense popularity of smart products, the market has become overcrowded which is why there is a need to carefully choose each and every smart product you employ. 

Moreover, to achieve a smart home, you have to install an integrated system that allows all the products in your house to communicate with each other. 

This is usually done by establishing a hub at the center via which smart devices can send commands and data to each other. 

However, there are many questions that need to be answered in order to help you understand what is a smart home? What kind of technology is required to DIY a smart home? And is product compatibility a thing?

To DIY a smart home you have to install a smart home hub such as the Apple Homekit and integrate it with other accessories such as bulbs, lights, garage door, speakers, TV, and more. 

In addition to this, we have also listed some of the benefits of the Homekit platform as well as the process of using Homebridge and HOOBS to tackle the limited device support that is offered by Homekit.

DIY Smart Home Ecosystems

As mentioned, the smart product market is overcrowded and during the past few years, we have seen many new brands emerge. 

Nevertheless, you will see names like Google, Amazon, Apple, and SmartThings keep popping up since they are the main stakeholders. 

The questions that arise here are what sets them apart? And which smart home ecosystem is superior and why?

A smart home ecosystem is the hub of your smart home, which is why it is crucial for the communication between all the smart devices in your home. 

Some of the main factors that will help you decide on a smart home ecosystem are:

  • The number of devices that can connect to it.
  • Range of available features. 
  • Range of compatibility.

Amidst the Google Home, Samsung Smarthings, and Amazon Alexa, the Apple Homekit stands out because it has been designed to offer a secure and privacy-conscious smart home.

Unlike other ecosystems on the market, Apple Homekit does not focus on countertop supremacy and wide coverage, rather its main focus is reliability and security. 

What is HomeKit?

Apple Homekit is a smart home ecosystem simple enough for people with even the bare minimum technical knowledge to operate. 

It is a system that allows you to control your smart home accessories by just tapping a few buttons on your phone or tablet. 

The Apple Homekit is the brain of your smart home. From giving you remote access to the installed smart products to dimming the garage lights while you are sitting comfortably on the bed, Homekit lets you do it all.  

What Do I Need to Set Up an Apple Home?

The first thing you need to set up an Apple home is the Apple Homekit. Since it is the brain of your smart home, you can start integrating the products only when the hub is set. 

Once you are done setting up the hub, it is time to decide what accessories do you want. 

You don’t have to go all-out and invest in all home automation products at once. 

Know that even if it takes you a few hours or days to set up your smart home, it will take months for you to properly develop it and install the right smart products. 

Initially, you might want to start with integrating smart lights, locks, speakers, and a few sensors to get the gist of it. 

After this, you can move on to other categories like smart windows, air conditioners, switches, sprinklers, and more. 

Getting Started with HomeKit

The idea of DIY-ing your own smart home might appear daunting to many, but it is not. 

Getting started with Homekit is as simple as buying a bulb and installing it in the outlet. 

Once you have your Homekit device, all you have to do is connect Homekit enabled accessories to the hub. 

It can be a smart light, a smart switch, a thermostat, or any other smart device. 

Once you have plugged the smart device of choice into the outlet, open the Home App. It is pre-installed on all iOS devices. 

Tap the ‘Add Accessory’ option on the main page and follow the steps that are displayed by the app. 

The first step will be scanning the QR code on the Homekit enabled smart device. This will add it to the Homekit framework. 

Setting Up your Home Hub

Setting up your home hub is a fairly simple process. 

The Apple Homekit gives you several customization options from setting up scenes to adding rooms and zones. 

However, depending on your usage and the size of your house, not all features will be useful for you. 

This is why the setting up process greatly depends on the size of your house and your requirements. 

Once you have logged into your Home app on an iOS device and scanned the plugged-in smart devices, start customizing the hub by changing the icons of the connected devices. This way, you will be able to differentiate between them more easily. 

In addition to this, adding rooms and zones can help you efficiently organize all the devices connected to the Home app. This is especially useful for relatively larger houses.

The Homekit also allows you to group zones and rooms so that you can control all the respective connected devices at once. 

Adding Accessories to HomeKit

As mentioned, the process of adding an accessory to your Homekit is fairly simple. To add a new device to your Home app, follow these steps:

  • Open the Home app.
  • Click on the ‘+’ icon in the top right corner. 
  • Choose ‘Add Accessory’ from the pop-up menu. 
  • Scan the QR code on the Homekit compatible device. 
  • Tap on the accessory’s name. 

Note that, if you are unable to scan the QR code due to bad lighting or other camera issues, you can also manually enter the Homekit code.  

Accessories to Get you Started

There are several Homekit enabled devices that you can start with. Since not every product can be used with Apple Homekit, App has maintained a list of all the Homekit compatible smart devices.

As far as accessories that you can get started with are concerned, it is better to go for relatively simple devices such as smart lights or smart switches. 

You will find several options for Homekit compatible smart lights. Some of these are:

  • Philips Hue Bulbs
  • IKEA TRÅDFRI LED bulbs with IKEA TRÅDFRI Gateway
  • Eve Light Strip 

Nevertheless, if you have some experience in handling smart products, you can also directly jump to smart thermostats, sprinklers, locks, and humidifiers.

Setting up Rooms

The Home app is very user-friendly which is why most of the processes are pretty straightforward. Setting up rooms is no different. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Launch the Home app. 
  • Long press on an accessory to open settings. 
  • Tap on Room from the menu. 
  • Click on create new. 
  • Add the name of the room. (You can also choose from the list of suggested rooms)
  • Tap done. 

The accessory that you added will start appearing under the title of the room. You can also group several rooms into zones by going to room settings and adding a group of rooms to a zone of your choice. 

This way you can control all the devices in the rooms together. For example, you can ask Siri to turn all the lights off downstairs. 

Creating Scenes

Scenes are another convenient feature that the Apple Homekit offers. You can control the smart devices at once using rooms and zones but scenes help in grouping several devices such that they can become a part of your daily routine. 

For example, you can create a bedtime scene. Once activated, this scene can turn off the unnecessary lights, set your thermostat to an economical temperature, turn the TV or any other entertainment accessories off and lock the doors.

Here is how you can add a scene using the Home app. 

  • Click on the ‘+’ sign in the top right corner. 
  • Tap on add scene. 
  • Go to custom. 
  • Name the scene. It is best to give scenes simple names since you will be using them a lot in the commands you give to Siri. 
  • After creating the scene, add accessories that you want to include in the scene. 
  • Select what each device should do when the scene is activated. 
  • Press done. 

Once the scene is created, all you have to do is enable and disable the scene by asking Siri. For example, you can say ‘Hey Siri, it is movie time’ and Siri will enable the required scene. 

How to Control your Smart Home Accessories

There are several ways of controlling your smart home accessories. 

The first and most common method is by using Siri voice commands. You can do this via any Apple device that has the Home app configured. You can also use Homekit enabled smart speakers for Siri commands.

You can also control the smart devices connected to your smart ecosystem directly from the Home app. 

You can also use the smart device’s native application that can be downloaded from the App Store. 

Lastly, you can invest in a Homekit enabled remote-like device that allows you to activate scenes by just clicking buttons. 

The Benefits of Going with HomeKit

Although skipping the manufacturer’s applications and being able to use all your smart devices with the help of one app is a huge advantage, this is not all that the Apple Homekit offers.

The actual benefit that Homekit offers is that it is not limited by the automation that are offered by a single manufacturer. 

It gives you the liberty to create scenes and automation using diverse Homekit compatible smart products. You are not limited to using Apple products only. 

Homekit allows you to build your smart home around a platform, rather than around individual devices. 

Hence, you can design a well-organized and harmonized smart home that can be controlled via your phone or your tablet. 

The Disadvantages of HomeKit

Even though Homekit provides several benefits, it has a downside as well. 

Since making a device Homekit compatible requires manufacturers to fulfill certain hardware and software requirements, many companies end up skipping Homekit support. 

This not only required additional hardware but also leads to an increase in manufacturing costs. 

Hence, the Homekit device support is limited as compared to what Amazon Alexa and Google Home offer. 

Nevertheless, this can be tackled with the help of certain platforms as explained later in the article. 

Homebridge

As mentioned, Apple Homekit provides you with a means to create automatics specific to your requirements. 

However, the limited device support may pose a challenge. This can be tackled by using Homebridge which practically lets you use all smart products from Nest to Sonos with your Home app. 

Homebridge can run on any computer using a lightweight NodeJS server that makes use of the iOS HomeKit API. 

Homebridge is open-source software that builds up on Homekit to provide you with a platform that is compatible with most smart products available on the market. 

The process of installing and running Homebridge can be slightly difficult for those who don’t have a lot of tech-related knowledge. 

Fortunately, there is a solution for this as well. Keep reading. 

HOOBS

HOOBS is a plug-and-play solution based on Homebridge. 

If you don’t want to undergo the extensive process of setting up Homebridge on your computer, HOOBS is the solution. 

It is a tiny device that needs to be plugged in. The setup process is also fairly simple. You can connect all the Homekit incompatible devices to your Home app with just a few clicks. 

The best part is, it provides fast response times and also allows the use of plugins to create virtual accessories. 

Setting Up HOOBS

The process of setting up HOOBS is fairly simple. All you have to do is connect HOOBS to your home Wi-Fi. However, if you can connect is using an ethernet cable, that will make the connection more stable. 

Once this is done, open your web browser and go to http://hoobs.local. You will be greeted with an interface. 

Using this interface, you can connect any smart device to your home app. If you are trying to connect a Nest smart product to your Home app, you will have to install the Nest plugin using the HOOBS interface. 

The device will automatically discover the product you are trying to add and will configure it with the Home app. 

Future HomeKit Features

Although the device support is limited for Homekit, Apple keeps rolling out new features for the platform to make it a user-friendly space. 

New Homekit features are usually announced with the new iOS. Last year, the company announced several new features with its iOS 15. 

Some of these include:

  • Using Siri on Homepod mini to control several devices. 
  • Using Homepod mini as a speaker. 
  • Cameras connected to Homekit can spot and identify packages that are being delivered. 
  • Using Siri on devices other than smart speakers and tablets. One of these devices is he Ecobee thermostat. 
  • Control smart products using your Apple Watch. 

Upcoming HomeKit Accessories

Some of the Homekit accessories that we are awaiting this year include:

  • Wemo Smart Video Doorbell
  • Stage scene controller
  • New Thread devices
  • Eve Outdoor Floodlight Camera
  • Eve MotionBlinds
  • ThinCast Smart Two (smart mirror)

These are only a handful of the many Homekit compatible devices that we will be seeing later this year. 

Conclusion

Homekit gives you great control over all the smart products connected to your smart home. You can add devices to favorites as well to access them directly from the control panel. 

In addition to this, you can also control all the connected devices when you are away from home. 

If you are at the office, you can use Siri on your phone to turn on the heating or cooling while you are away. 

You can also lock or unlock the garage door as per requirements even if you are not home. 

For this, all you have to do is enable two-factor authentication on your iCloud. After this, you will be able to remotely access your smart home.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What do you need to get started with HomeKit?

All you need is the Home app on an Apple device and a smart product. 

What is the HomeKit setup code?

HomeKit Code is scannable by the Home app during setup and is located next to the HomeKit icon.