Smart Home

What is Apple HomeKit, and how does it actually work?

"Automation, all I ever wanted."

Apple HomePod Credit: Apple

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For iPhone users who don't want to venture far to control their smart homes, look no further than Apple HomeKit. Like Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant, you can use HomeKit to control and command your favorite HomeKit-compatible smart devices.

Apple HomeKit isn't compatible with quite as many devices as the aforementioned digital assistants, but unlike smart home systems such as Samsung SmartThings, it doesn't require a specific hub to configure. All you need to get started is to scope out the compatible hardware—door locks, smart bulbs, and so on—and once these gadgets are synced up, you can walk through the door and ask Siri to turn on the lights! Cool, right?

How does HomeKit work?

Apple Home app
Credit: Apple

The Apple Home app lets you control connected devices.

Like many smart home interfaces, the Apple Home app allows you to control any accessory that's compatible with HomeKit. The Apple Home app lets you organize accessories by room, control individual devices through Siri, and set up "scenes" that will make your home feel genuinely automated.

Note that if you do want to control smart devices while you're away from home, you'll need a hub of sorts. In this case, it's another compatible Apple product, such as:

You'll want to set up Apple Home this way if you also intend to set up home automation.

What is compatible with HomeKit?

HomeKit Compatible Devices
Credit: Schlage

There are a wide range of smart home gadget that work with Apple HomeKit, including smart locks.

Apple HomeKit works with a wide variety of connected products and services. For starters, consider devices from well-known brands like Philips Hue, LiFX, Sylvania, iDevices and Belkin's WeMo. For door locks, there are plenty of August and Schlage models that integrate with HomeKit. For more, check out our full list of connected devices that work with HomeKit, including garage door openers, smoke detectors and thermostats.

HomeKit is a smart home controller, but it works with your media, too. You can sync up your TV and speakers to play music and podcasts throughout your home. The Home app can also keep you privy to what's happening in your living space if you have security cameras or a video doorbell installed.

For utmost convenience, you can also control HomeKit-compatible devices with your Apple Watch. Either command Siri to perform an action or configure your settings to show your favorite connected devices, allowing you to control them right from your wrist.

How do you set up HomeKit?

Apple TV HomeKit
Credit: Apple

You can set up HomeKit through your phone and make your Apple TV its hub.

Setting up Apple HomeKit is relatively straightforward. Follow these steps to get started with HomeKit.

Step 1: Download the app and select a device

Download and open the Apple Home app on your iPhone or iPad, then tap on the plus (+) sign in the top right corner to connect a device or create a scene. Make sure that the gadget you're linking is already on and set up with its respective mobile app.

Step 2: Scan the HomeKit code

Using the camera on your iOS device, you can then scan the eight-digit HomeKit code or QR code that came with your accessory packaging.

Step 3: Configure the device

When you see your accessory appear, tap on it, then allow it access to your network. The Apple Home app will ask you to give it a name and assign it to a room. Once you tap Done, you're ready to control your new accessory with the Apple Home app and Siri.

Step 4: Set up your hub

Remember, though: remotely controlling devices isn't possible unless you have a device like the Apple TV or HomePod connected as a hub.

To make your Apple TV a hub, go to Settings, then tap on Accounts. Sign in to iCloud with your Apple ID, and then your Apple TV will confirm that it's a designated hub. You'll want to set up this option if you're often out of the house, or you want to check in on security footage from work.

Siri will already know which devices have been connected once you've set up your hub. Without launching the Apple Home app, you can ask Siri to help with things like turning on the lights or playing a specific song on a connected audio device.

What are "scenes"?

Apple HomeKit
Credit: Apple

You can set up a variety of "scenes" with HomeKit.

One significant advantage of setting up the Apple TV or HomePod as a hub is that you can set up "scenes" within your home. Scenes automatically trigger a series of actions based on the time of day or when certain conditions are met.

For example, you can set up HomeKit to turn on the lights at a particular time each day so that you're not coming home to a dark house. Or, you can set up individual lights and motion sensors to depict a scene when your video doorbell notices you leaving the house for work each morning.

As you can see, Apple HomeKit offers a lot of the same benefits as Amazon Alexa and other digital assistants, but it's undeniably convenient if you already know, love, and own Apple products.