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(Pocket-lint) - Apple HomeKit is designed to make it easier for you to set up and control the smart home gear in your home. 

These include devices like Philips Hue lights, Wink lights, and other smart speakers, thermostats, detectors, plugs, blinds, locks, sensors and so on.

HomeKit-enabled smart accessories are secure, easy to use, and work with iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod. Any manufacturer can implement HomeKit into their smart accessories.


You can use the Home app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to set up all your HomeKit-enabled smart accessories, and then you can use Siri to ultimately control them via voice commands. 

It's worth pointing out that while HomeKit itself isn't compatible with smart home ecosystems like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant the individual devices might work with several. 

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What is HomeKit and how does it work?

So, you’re probably wondering to yourself: I’ve long owned smart lights and controlled them with their own separate iOS apps, so why is HomeKit necessary? Well, imagine that you also own smart blinds.

Without HomeKit, your smart lights can’t communicate with your smart blinds, meaning you can’t hook them up together, control them with a single interface, or set them to perform actions together.

Imagine being able to make your lights automatically to turn off while simultaneously making your window blinds close at 9pm every night.

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Until HomeKit and the Home app, you had to manually control each accessory with their own separate apps, and you'd have to set every one to do a specific task at a certain time in order to give the appearance that they worked together. That’s all rather tedious, right?

HomeKit-enabled smart accessories, however, can speak to each other, and best of all, you can control them using voice commands through Siri.

You can use Siri on your iPhone (say things like, “Turn on the lights in the garage” or “Good morning”) to trigger a bunch of actions. You can make your smart accessories turn on and do their thing. For instance, maybe your coffee can brew while your doors unlock.

Every HomeKit-enabled smart accessory automatically works with Siri once you set it up through its HomeKit-enabled app.

Siri is just the unified interface you use to bark voice commands to the smart accessories. You still need to use their separate apps, which every smart accessory has, to gain full access to settings, touch controls, and more. 

Now, the last thing you need to know about HomeKit is that it can enforce end-to-end encryption between all smart accessories and your Apple devices. That means hackers can’t steal your data, work their way into your communications, or take control of your home.

How can you tell if something is HomeKit compatible?

Manufacturers can add support for HomeKit into their smart accessories, but they need to get their smart accessories approved by Apple in order to make them HomeKit compatible.

HomeKit-enabled smart accessories are marked with a “Works with Apple HomeKit” badge on their product packaging. If you own a smart accessory without that, it won’t work with HomeKit. 

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Which Apple devices work with HomeKit?

The following Apple devices work with HomeKit:

  • Apple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (running iOS 10 or later)
  • Apple Watch (running WatchOS 3 or later)
  • Apple TV (fourth generation)
  • Apple HomePod/HomePod mini
  • Macs with macOS 10.14 Mojave or later

What is the Home app and how does it work?

Apple launched its Home app in 2016 and it's available for iOS/iPadOS as well as Macs running macOS 10.14 Mojave or later. It serves as a centralised hub for managing Apple HomeKit-enabled accessories. These are devices that have been specifically certified by Apple.

Many HomeKit-enabled smart accessories have their own separate apps, but the advantage of using the Home app is that you can access and control all of them from one centralised location.

With the new Home app, it’s now easy to set up and manage all your HomeKit-enabled smart accessories. The app features integration with Control Center, 3D Touch quick actions, and of course, support for Siri.

The app's settings are also synced through Apple's iCloud storage service, so any iCloud-enabled Apple device - whether that be an iPhone or iPad - can be used to control your Home.


Get started with the Home app

There is a pecking order when it comes to using the Home app, which is essential to understanding how the app functions: Home > Rooms > Accessories > (Groups, Scenes, and Automation). Those last bits - groups, scenes, and automation - is optional, but we'll get into that later. Once you launch the Home app, and you’ll be greeted with a “Welcome Home” screen that explains the Home app.

Tap the Get Started button to proceed. The initial smart accessory setup process in the Home app is easy to follow. By default you’ll see a new “My Home” screen, which allows you to start adding locks, lights, thermostats, etc. You can change the name of your Home, change the background wallpaper, and more. Also, notice that the Home app has three main tabs: Home, Rooms, and Automation.

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But before we get into all that, add your first accessory.

Add an accessory in Home app

Tap the Add Accessory button. The Home app will then scan your Home network to find any HomeKit-enabled smart accessory. For this step to work, both your Apple device and your HomeKit-enabled device need to be connected to the same local network (like your home Wi-Fi). 

Tap the accessory, and then you’ll be asked to enter an 8-digit setup code that's either on the accessory or its packaging. The Home app will show a camera frame so that you can capture the HomeKit code without having to manually enter in the code. 

Some HomeKit accessory packaging also has a HomeKit code (a bit like a QR code) that you can scan and use to add accessories. 

Once done, the Home app will pair with the HomeKit-enabled smart accessory and reroute you to the Add Accessory screen to complete the pairing process.

To rename your accessories, tap in the name box and adjust it. You can set a location for the accessory; Bedroom, Dining Room, and Living Room, are provided by default.

To create your own location, tap the Create New button. You can also use the Include in Favourites option at the bottom of the Add Accessory screen to pin your accessory to the Control Center in iOS 10 and Home tab in the Home app.

It's important to note that some smart accessories need you to use their own separate apps for software updates and so on.

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Editing your devices in the Home app

In the Home app you should see your paired accessories listed on the Home tab. From here, you can also customise the Home tab. You can also see your key devices on the Action Center in iOS/iPadOS, too. That's the easist way to access them. 

You can have more than one Home configured in the app. You can additional homes by tapping the Add Home button in the top corner.

To add a new accessory to a home, tap the ‘+’ button in the corner while on the Home tab, and then tap Add Accessory. Of course, when adding a new accessory, you’ll be thrown back into the initial setup process we covered.

Rooms in the Home app

Once you've added and configured an accessory, the Home app adds a room by default. The Rooms tab can be adjusted to include multiple rooms within a Home. We recommend using rooms that reflect the actual rooms in your home. So, if you have a Philips Hue light in your living room, create a room called Living Room. Just tap the List button in the corner to edit the room, change its name or room wallpaper, etc.

You can take a picture of the room, for instance, and add it as your room wallpaper. Now, to add an additional room, tap the Add Room button in the corner of the Rooms tab. Once you've added all your rooms, you can swipe between them on the Rooms tab. To add a new accessory to a room, tap the + button in the corner, then tap Add Accessory, and you'll be thrown into that initial setup process again.

Automation tab in the Home app

The Automation tab enables you to automate accessory actions based on triggers like location or time. However, it requires a fourth-generation Apple TV, an iPad running iOS 10 or later, or a HomePod. When away from home, either of these can provide remote access and let you take advantage of the Home app’s Automation feature, which automates accessories based on the following triggers:

  • My location changes
  • A time of day occurs
  • An accessory is controlled
  • A sensor detects something

To create a new Automated task, tap the Automation tab in the corner of the Home app, then tap Create new Automation, and select one of the four automation triggers on the New Automation screen. Once you select a trigger, you can select the scenes and accessories to automate. You can play around with scenes to build a truly custom automated task, then tap the Done, and your automated task will be saved.

An example of an automated task would be having your living room lights turn on at sunset. You could have them turn on at a specific brightness level or colour even. The granular controls available to you of course depend on your smart accessory.

Customise and group accessories

Now that you've created rooms for each room in your home that contains a HomeKit-enabled smart accessory, you’ll also want to give your accessory a name to make it easier for you to access it. Just long-press on an accessory tile in the Home app, then tap the Details button at the bottom, and from the accessory customisation screen, you can rename it, set its location, include it in favourites, etc.

On this accessory customisation screen, you can also group an accessory with other HomeKit-enabled smart devices. This will make all the devices work together as a singular device. That also means you can control all your grouped smart accessories at once - an automation. However, accessories can be controlled in many different ways, which we explain in more detail below.

Create accessory scenes

But, first: scenes. These are actions that involve two or more accessories. You can create a scene called “Good Morning” that turns on all the lights in a room in the morning. Scenes are different from groups because each can still be controlled individually. You can invoke different actions for each device, so maybe one light will turn on and another will turn off. It all just depends on you and your preferences.

On the Home or Rooms tab, tap the + button in the corner, followed by Add Scene. You’ll then see a New Scene screen. Apple includes four suggested scenes to start with: Arrive Home, Good Morning, Good Night, Leave Home. You can of course create a custom scene, with a custom icon and name. Just tap Custom at the bottom of the New Scene page. You can also customise Apple's suggested scenes.

Shortcuts to scenes will be available in the Control Center on your iOS device. You can also choose it to Show in Favourites, which is enabled by default. Scenes added to favourites will appear on the Home tab in the Home app and have 3D Touch quick action options.

Control your accessories

You can control a smart accessory through the Home app. So, if you want to turn your light on or off, simply tap on the accessory tile. Or, you can long-press on the tile will reveal additional options, such as a dimmer interface or maybe a colour-changing slider. This is different for every accessory, so it's important to play around a bit to discover the type of granular controls available.

You can also control accessories through the Apple Watch. The Home app comes with an Apple Watch complication, which is a shortcut to the Home app. You can also add the Home app to your Dock in the Apple Watch.

And in iOS/iPad on iPhone or iPad, the Home app has its own spot in the Control Center. Just swipe up from your Home Screen to access the Control Center and then swipe all the way to the right.

You will then see all of your favourite HomeKit accessories and can tap on an accessory tile to toggle it on or off without having to launch the Home app. Once again, a long-press on an accessory tile in the Control Center will serve up more options. The Home section of Control Center also lets you select favourite scenes. Just tap the Scenes/Accessories button in the corner of the Home section.

Siri control is probably the easiest method. Just say something like “Turn on kitchen light” or "Turn my bedroom light purple" or to "Turn my office light brightness up to 90 per cent." Siri is smart enough to recognise all your accessories, rooms, and scenes. Just keep in mind you can only control HomeKit devices on your home Wi-Fi network, unless you have a hub like an Apple TV or iPad.

To use off-network remote access, make sure your devices are logged into the same iCloud account. You can see a list of your Home Hubs by opening the Home app, tapping the Home tab, and tapping the Compass button in the corner.

Invite others to control your home

You can share access to your automated home and its accessories with anyone who has an iOS 10 device with an iCloud account. To invite people to control your home, tap the + button in the top corner of the Home app’s Home tab. Then go to Add People. You can find people in your contacts or by typing in their email address. 

Be sure to tap the Send Invite button to send the invitation. Invited users will receive a push notification about the invitation. They will need to accept the invitation to gain access to the accessories your home Home. Just tap on any invited person’s avatar to manage their permissions. You can also revoke invites by tapping the Remove Person button at the bottom of a person's screen. Easy. 

Writing by Maggie Tillman and Elyse Betters. Editing by Dan Grabham. Originally published on 16 July 2014.