The Home App for Apple HomeKit (Part 2)
Apple recently unveiled the Beta 1 version of its newest operating system, iOS 10, at WWDC 2016. In order to discover more about this exciting release, Adam Justice of ConnectSense upgraded all of his devices to iOS 10, Beta 1. There are innovative new features that can not only be accessed on the iPhone, but on the Apple Watch, iPad, Apple TV, and even using CarPlay.
Once iOS 10 is up and running on the iPhone, there is a pretty useful function that can be accessed on the home screen. The user has the ability to 3D touch the icon for the Home app and run a scene from there, without having to open the app itself. There is also an option to add a new scene from this menu, and once this option is selected, the app will launch and the user will automatically be directed to the scene creation screen.
The Apple Watch also unlocks some very powerful functions with watchOS 3, Beta 1. The Home app can be accessed by clicking on the dock button on the Apple Watch. Once the Home app is launched, there is a simple list of the accessories. The user has the ability to scroll through all of their HomeKit accessories using the digital crown. For any outlets or simple devices, there is an on/off button that can be used to control each device. For anything that is dimmable, the digital crown can be used to set the level of brightness. At the top of the menu, there is a list of all of the user’s scenes that can be controlled with the touch of a button. If the user has multiple home’s set up, they can use force touch to change to an alternative location.
Another device in Apple’s arsenal is the iPad Pro, which can be used in order to further explore the new features of iOS 10, Beta 1. The first important thing to examine can actually be found in the iPad’s settings. Once in settings, head down to the settings for the Home app. There will be an option titled, “Use this iPad as a Home Hub.” If the user has an iPad that is always at home, they can check this setting and use that iPad as a home hub to access any of their HomeKit devices while away from home. This is a really powerful setting if there is an iPad that can always be left at home.
The Home app on the iPad is fairly similar to the one we see on the iPhone, except there is a lot more screen real-estate so the user can easily see their favorite scenes and devices. In the top left corner of the screen, there is a summary of all of the devices that are on within the user’s home environment. The next thing to explore is the “Rooms” tab, which can be accessed with the middle button on the bottom of the screen. Instead of going through the rooms menu at the top, the user can quickly switch between their rooms by swiping the screen to the left or right.
The last section of the Home app is the “Automation” tab, which is the bottom right button. In the first ConnectSense walkthrough, we didn’t have access to the automation section, but there are ways three ways to access the functions of this tab. The first way to do this is by enabling an iPad to act as a home hub, which was discussed above. The next way to do this is to have an Apple TV running tvOS 10, Beta 1. However, the simplest way is by downloading another HomeKit app, such as the ConnectSense app, that has support for things like triggers, automations, or rules, and then adding a new automation within that new app. This will enable the user to be able to see the automation tab in the Home app. Once this is complete, the user has some really powerful options. New automations can be set up by clicking the “create new automation” button in the middle of the screen.
There are four options for automation that are based off of when the user’s location changes (geofencing), the time of day, when an accessory is controlled, or when a sensor detects something. These are all great tools to get started on home automation. Setting up automation based on time of day is very useful. One of the really awesome new features in this section that was not available in iOS 9 is the ability to trigger something based off of the sunrise and sunset. So if the user has outside lights or any other devices that need to be controlled based off of the sun, this is a great option because the time of the sunrise and sunset will change based off of what time of year it is. The user can also select a specific time of day and set it to repeat on various days of the week. The accessory based options also give the user quite a bit of control. This is a really great way to set up automations so that doing one device will trigger other devices. An example would be if the someone turned on a light in the morning, it could then trigger a “good morning” scene that would turn on other devices in the home. Another great thing is that these automations sync across devices. This is a big upgrade because any rules or automations set up on an iOS 9 device were unable to be transferred to another device.
The last major function of the Home app on the iPad can be found on the “Home” tab. The user can further examine a device by holding down on its icon. A menu will then pop up with information on the device. Within the device details, there is actually a link to the manufacturers app. So if the user is using a ConnectSense Smart Outlet, they can access the ConnectSense app from this menu. Even though the Home app is very powerful, there will typically be certain manufacturer features, firmware updates, and things like that, which can only be accessed through the manufacturer’s app.
The Apple TV can help expand the functionality of HomeKit with the use of tvOS 10, Beta. With the use of this Beta, we can now utilize Siri commands with the Apple TV remote. The user has the ability to say something along the lines of “set my thermostat to 72 degrees,” or “set my home for ‘I’m leaving.’” This will help give home owners much more control over their network of HomeKit devices.
One of the coolest new features for iOS 10 is the fact that HomeKit works with CarPlay, which it did not for iOS 9. The user has the ability to use Siri voice commands within their car in order to control their various HomeKit devices in their home. An example would be if someone was about to leave their home and was in their car, they could say “set my home for ‘I’m leaving,’” which would trigger a scene for the home from the car. This gives the user much more control over their home environment.