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Tips & Tricks

Sharing HomeKit Access

Once you’ve started to deploy more than a couple of HomeKit accessories in your home, you’ll likely reach a point where you’ll want to ensure that your other family members can also access and control them. Fortunately, Apple has considered this in the design of HomeKit, and in fact has even improved these features with iOS 10 and tvOS 10.

To add a user to your HomeKit home from your iPhone, simply open up the “Home” app and tap the arrow in the top-left corner. On this screen you’ll see the name of your home, a listing of any of your Home Hubs, and an “Invite…” button. Tapping this allows you to invite anybody with an Apple ID to share control of your home, and if you’re using iCloud Family Sharing, the app will even helpfully offer up your list of family members to get you started. Note that if you’re managing more than one Home, each one gets its own sharing list, so you can let the whole family control the lights in your main home, while perhaps only allowing your spouse or partner access to the cottage.

Checking HomeKit accessory battery levels with Siri

If you’ve got a HomeKit setup, you probably already know you can ask Siri to report information such as whether your lights are on, whether your doors are locked, and what the temperature is in your house. However, if you’ve got battery-powered accessories, such as Elgato’s Eve sensors, it looks like Apple also snuck in the ability to query battery levels into a recent iOS update.

Simply ask Siri “What is the battery level of…” followed by your accessory name, and it will report it back as a percentage. You can also ask using a room name, provided you’ve only got one battery-powered accessory assigned to that particular room.

Using your iPad as a Home Hub for HomeKit

When HomeKit was first introduced in iOS 8, Apple chose to position the Apple TV at the centre of the system, to act as a hub or gateway for controlling access to HomeKit devices remotely. Without an Apple TV, you could control your HomeKit accessories directly from an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch that’s in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth range, but when away from home, you’d have no ability to control or even monitor the status of your HomeKit devices — for that you’ll need a HomeKit hub, which was originally a role limited to the Apple TV. While the third-generation Apple TV originally filled this role — and still can in a limited capacity — the stakes went up with iOS 10 and tvOS 10 last year, leaving the older third-gen model out of the HomeKit party for features like streaming video from HomeKit cameras, running automation routines, and accessing more advanced permissions for your secondary HomeKit users.

Controlling your Home from the Apple TV

When the fourth-generation Apple TV launched in the fall of 2015, we found the absence of direct support for controlling Apple HomeKit devices to be a conspicuous omission — especially considering the Apple TV was already designed to act as the hub for remote access to HomeKit accessories. In other words, HomeKit accessory commands were being processed through the set-top box, but there was no way to allow the user to participate using the Apple TV itself. It took another year to come to fruition, but tvOS 10 brought interactive HomeKit support to the set-top box last fall, opening up not only the ability to control HomeKit accessories via Siri commands, but also support for third-party tvOS apps to access the HomeKit framework.

Siri HomeKit commands can be used to adjust most accessories (e.g. “Turn off the living room lights”) and activate scenes (e.g. “Set the movie night scene” or even simply “It’s movie night”), and we’ve found they often work more quickly than issuing the same commands on the iPhone or Apple Watch. You can also set your thermostat (e.g. “Set the temperature to 24 degrees”) and inquire as to the status of various HomeKit sensors to check temperature and other information (e.g. “What is the temperature in the living room?” or even “Is there carbon monoxide in the basement?”).

Keeping the Christmas Tree Lights On with HomeKit

If you’ve got more than a couple of lights tied into your HomeKit system, you’ve probably gotten accustomed to using Siri commands like “Turn off the lights” when you’re leaving home, going to bed, or just otherwise want to de-illuminate your home. Of course, in that case, this time of year you’re probably going to be tempted to plug your Christmas tree or other holiday lights into a HomeKit-compatible plug so that you can control them using Siri and HomeKit automation. It’s a great idea, but suddenly you might find yourself avoiding Siri commands to turn all of your lights off at home, or in a given room if you still want to leave the Christmas lights on.

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