The unveiling of iOS 11 is just around the corner. In about a week we’ll know what new features to expect. A few years ago one of those features was Homekit which acts as a virtual central place for everything related to home automation. Last year Apple added some new features and we got an official app to visualise this virtual place.
Still, Homekit hasn’t taken the world by storm. Probably because of a lack of compatible devices (especially in Europe) and no devices being in the no-brainer price range.
Well, I’m one of the suckers that has invested in several Homekit accessories and has started automating his home. My opinion? I like Homekit and what I’m able to do with it! But I’m also seeing what’s holding Homekit back. So here’s some stuff that I would like to see improved.
As I mentioned before, this is currently the biggest problem in the ecosystem. Homekit is probably the most secure home automation system on the market, but therefor devices need special chips that support certain encryption methods (I’m not clear on the details here). That’s why Philips needed to release a second Hue hub before they could provide Homekit support.
From what I gather Apple is helping manufacturers to create Homekit compatible devices (probably with contact between engineers), but they could do more. Elgato has a Homekit compatible Bluetooth LE chip that any company can buy from them to quickly bring Homekit devices to market. Unfortunately Bluetooth is less than ideal for home automation because of range issues. Apple could provide their own version of such a chip, but on wifi, ZigBee or Z-Wave. This would ease the development for many companies which might make adding Homekit support a no-brainer.
Support for more device types
This one is also obvious. Last year we got support for cameras (Ring; I’m still waiting for Homekit support for my Ring Doorbell Pro), air conditioners and several other categories, but there is always more like:
- Kitchen appliances
- Home batteries
- Solar panel installations
There are many more possible device types of course and some of these could be put in the “sensors” category or act like power outlets (like dumb coffee machine). But still, native support would be nice.
Cars in particular are interesting:
- Reminding you to charge them or having a single color LED lightbulb that indicates the charge level constantly.
- Act on the location of the car
- Automatically cool the when the temperature in the car exceeds a certain level and you exit the house.
Connecting Homekit with home batteries like a Tesla Powerwall or your solar panels can be interesting to:
- Dim lights when your battery is below a certain level and is not being charged anymore.
- Or to an extreme: The battery is full, your solar panels are generating more energy than your house can take, it will be a humid evening, it’s in the afternoon and there is no one at home; then turn up the air conditioning and cool the house down a few extra degrees so the AC doesn’t have to work as hard in the evening when the house is running on just the battery.
With these device types and using triggers in a smart way you could reduce the power you need to draw from the grid.
An IR blaster
The classic home automation dream is to get home, park yourself on the couch and tell your house that you want to watch TV. This is currently not possible with Homekit since AV equipment is not supported. AV equipment could be added as a category (which would be nice) but a much more flexible solution is a Homekit IR blaster. Something like Bond or Logitech Harmony Hub but with Homekit support.
With a Homekit IR blaster you could:
- Tell Siri that you want to watch TV; the TV turns on and switches to the correct channel.
- Tell Siri that you want to watch a movie; the TV turns on, the TV is set to the correct channel, the AV receiver and speakers turn on, the lights dim and the blinds close.
- Control your old air conditioner.
And if Apple adds Homekit device support to the Apple TV:
- Tell Siri you want to watch Netflix; do all of the above and switch the Apple TV to the Netflix app
Has a certain condition been met? Than send a notification to certain family members. For example:
- The temperature in the baby room exceeds a certain value; send a notification to the parents so they can open up a window.
- You were upstairs and come down, but the stairgate isn’t closed; get a notification.
Use this to anticipate certain weather:
- It will rain later today and some windows are open; notify the homeowner to close the windows.
Bluetooth beacon triggers
Trigger a scene when you get within a certain range of a specific Bluetooth beacon. This works better than GPS location tracking because you don’t need to have tracking on permanently (which drains your battery) and accurately be used inside buildings. And unlike motion detectors, it will only trigger when “known” people are within range.
- You enter your bathroom between 7.00 and 8.00 in the morning; turn on the lights at 50% brightness in winter and turn on the shower with your preferred temperature.
- The kids enter the garage late at night; notify the parents they are home.
- Pop one in your car. When you enter (or get near) your car; check if all doors and windows are closed. If not send a notification.
- When you approach your door, unlock it (I wouldn’t use that one myself though).
Currently if a trigger condition is met, a scene will trigger, but that’s it. You can’t have something happen 2 minutes later unless another trigger is set off exactly at that moment.
I have an Elgato Eve Motion sensor that sort of has a timer feature build in. When you trigger it, it sets a scene (like turning on lights) and a set time later it will trigger another scene (to dim the lights again) unless it has been triggered again in the meantime. This functionality is not within Homekit but is added by Elgato.
Native homekit timers would be great:
- Remember the shower example from earlier. What if you could increase the brightness of the lights every minute until it reaches 80%? That would help you wake up right?
- Your doorbell detects movement at night; wait 20 seconds, turn on 1 light in the living room, wait another 10 seconds and turn on another light. After 5 minutes, dim all the lights. Time ranges would be helpful in this scenario as well.
I’m honestly not really sure how this works now, but once you add timers, the order in which values are set starts to matter. So the user interface has to be very clear about this. Hmm, the Workflow team might have some input on this.
Reset to previous state
This is a much needed feature when timers are introduced. Say you have a complex scene set and one of the lights turns green to let you know your car is fully charged (or your coffee is ready, or your favorite team has scored, or whatever) it would be nice if that light could return to it’s previous state after a few seconds. This way it doesn’t matter what scene was set before or if the light was off.
Pressure sensor triggers
- Tuck one under your garbage bin and send a notification as soon as it’s reaches a certain weight so you don’t have to carry a heavy (and smelly) bin outside.
Siri in a Can
This one is rumored to be coming this WWDC. Siri is my preferred way to control Homekit devices. But this is mainly because I’m wearing an Apple Watch. The rest of the family doesn’t benefit from having Siri ready without having to dig a device out of a pocket or bag. A Siri in a Can device would fix this and probably is a much better listener than our iPhones and Apple Watch.
Siri doesn’t understand you all the time. We know that and it needs to improve. But there are more Homekit specific things that could improve. For example:
- Better feedback when things don’t work. When I tell Siri “goodnight” and it dims all the living room lights it sometimes tells me “Hmm, I can’t do that”. Turns out that one of the lights outside is not responding. Siri could just tell me that since all lights are named. It seems to do this better on iPhone than on Apple Watch.
- Working together with Bluetooth beacons to determine in which room you are so you don’t have to tell Siri that.
One cool thing I noticed: Siri seems to remind which device(s) you controlled last. So if you tell it to turn on the living room lights and then tell it to “turn them blue” it will only turn those lights blue.
Okay, this one is just for my kids. We have this awesome Hue Disco iOS app which flashes our Hue lights in different colors based on the music that is playing. The kids love this when they’re playing music from Youtube on Apple TV. Just telling Siri to start disco mode to do the same would rock. Well at least in our house…
- You can share your Homekit home with someone else, but room backgrounds in the Home app don’t get shared. Seriously? This needs to be added (and start syncing my Photos Faces and Smart albums while you’re at it as well).
- The Home and Room screens in the Home app look a lot alike and I’ve been trying to swipe the Home screen way too much assuming I was on the Room screen. Make these screens more distinctive or just merge them.
- More gradual sharing of a home, for example only share certain rooms with the baby sitter or the neighbours.
- Allow access for certain timeslots. Again useful for the baby sitter or when renting out your Airbnb.
- Usage logs (useful for door locks and garage doors)
- Mac support including a Mac Home app
- Better, or actually, any indicators that your Apple TV is acting as a Homekit bridge.